Christmas is in a few days, which means 2023 is righhht around the corner. I think two things should be left in 2022, and overthinking is one of them. Did you realise overthinking was a habit? I never thought of it as a habit. I figured my brain was wired that way, and I’d always be an overthinker. Thankfully, that’s not the case and overthinking can be fixed.
Some overthinking is normal. It becomes a problem when it impacts your day-to-day life by incessantly overthinking even the smallest decisions. I used to overthink every single thing. It didn’t help that many of the people I’m close with overthink everything too. So we’d feed off of each other’s worry and anxiety.
If your friend group is similar, you’ll find it really helpful to set boundaries. Your boundaries may sound like, “I already gave you my advice. There’s nothing else that I can say that’ll be helpful,” when your friend obsesses over making a decision - which I’ve had to do. Or it could be, “I want to help you, but I can’t talk about this with you right now,” when you want to protect your good mood.
As far as getting over your own overthinking, I have a few tips for you. But first, let’s talk about what overthinking is.
What is overthinking?
Most thoughts come and go without us noticing them. But now and then, we have a thought that catches our attention and triggers a negative emotion like anxiety or fear. These thoughts are called trigger thoughts. Overthinking happens when you start forming thoughts to support your trigger thought. You become consumed by those supporting thoughts instead of letting them naturally come and go. You can't control whether or not you have a trigger thought, but you can break the habit of creating supporting thoughts.
Some examples of overthinking are: ruminating or replaying past events, creating stories and jumping to conclusions, second-guessing yourself, obsessively focusing on a specific problem and catastrophising, or focusing only on the worst and minimising or overlooking the possibility of a good outcome.
Overthinking sounds like:
"But what if I..."
"Maybe I should have..."
"I wish I would have…"
"Why didn't I...instead?"
"Did I do something to make them...?"
Overthinking can be incredibly distressing, but I don’t think you need me to tell you that.
How To Stop Overthinking
Awareness is the first part of working on your overthinking, the second thing to do is to pay attention to just how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Below are tips that are specific to each type of overthinking.
My thing used to be rumination. I’d be doing something simple like washing my dishes, then all of a sudden, I’m flooded with tears because I’ve replayed every hurtful detail of something that happened to me four years prior.
Emotional reactions are one sign that you’re body is holding on to trauma (read about that here). You’d be right to explore that feeling further. Something I’ve learned to do, which has been incredibly helpful, is to gently say to myself, “it’s okay. It’s over now”, and shift my focus to something else. This is much better than replaying every minute detail of a traumatic event to the point that you're triggerred. I wonder how much stress we put on ourselves when we do that.
No good can come from constantly second-guessing yourself. When you start second-guessing a decision that you’ve made, it helps to check in with yourself and remind yourself of why you made that decision and what outcome you were hoping for when you made it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself that if things don’t go to plan, there might be a lesson that you can take away and apply in the future and get a different or better outcome. As your confidence grows, you’ll naturally start to second-guess yourself.