A Reminder to Stop Overthinking.
Here are 4 tips to get out of your mental rut. Give yourself patience and grace.
Dear overthinking human,
You’re not going to solve the world’s problems in your head. And you’re not going to protect yourself from the world in your head. No matter how hard you refine and purify ideas in your hyperactive noggin, at some point it pays to take action, if only to give your grey matter a release.
So here’s a reminder to stop overthinking. Don’t beat yourself up because you caught yourself playing mental gymnastics again. Just become aware… let it go again… and carry on with your day by doing the next right thing. Rinse and repeat. Become aware… stop dead in your tracks… and carry on with your day by doing the next right thing.
Remember, it’s about the journey and the process. You and I will mess up and fail again. We’ll get sucked into the black hole of paralysis by analysis again. But we’re all getting better. We’re figuring out how to make impactful decisions, how to let things go quicker and quicker, how to honor our minds and use it as a tool instead of a dog chasing its tail. We’re getting 1% better each and every day.
Nevertheless, here are some solutions to combat overthinking that will set you straight again. We need to be reminded.
Schedule ‘think time’, then make a decision.
Let’s face it: you like to think. You are wired to enjoy your own company and toy around with ideas and concepts. Every once in awhile, you reach a *eureka* moment of added knowledge and insight that can be very satisfying.
The dark side of this though is getting so caught up in your thoughts that the world passes you by. And then you’re trying to figure out, in your head, how in the heck that happened.
To solve this, be intentional about scheduling some “think time”. Brainstorming, journaling, musing, prayer closet… whatever you’d like to call it. This is a dedicated time on your calendar devoted to giving yourself total freedom to just think.
Here comes the caveat: after the think time is over, if there has been something in particular that has been laying heavily on your mind, you must then make a decision.
As an over-thinker, you are wishy washy with your decisions. You like keeping your options open. You like putting what’s on your mind through your fiery mental furnace to burn away the dross and make it like gold. That’s a perfectionistic tendency. Nobody is perfect.
Schedule think time, then make the call.
Be intentional about acknowledging and embracing the pain and discomfort in your life.
Nobody gets through life without some degree of lingering pain and discomfort. As an over-thinker, you believe that you have the power seek resolution to the pain, or at the very least minimize it, through the power of your mind.
Overthinking will not solve your pain or discomfort.
“I’ll find a solution, I know I can do it. I’ll find a solution, a philosophy, a technique, an opportunity, a way back.” A little bit of that can be helpful in overcoming obstacles. But just a little bit. For the most part, you’re just fooling yourself in your little holding pattern of the mind, and over time you will start to do yourself more harm than good.
I believe that in these situations, it can surprisingly helpful to openly acknowledge and embrace the pain and discomfort in your life. Let’s not run away from this and let’s not sugarcoat it. Life will not go your way 100% of the time. Sometimes it even feels like a roundhouse kick to the gut.
Instead of brushing it off too soon and then rushing into your coping mechanism of overthinking, take a moment to humbly acknowledge it.
“That sucks, I’m really sorry.”
“That’s a tricky situation, there’s no way around it.”
“Well gee, I just got dealt a bad hand. My house flooded / car got wrecked / girlfriend just dumped me / [fill in the blank]. Sh*t.”
When you stop and acknowledge that life is messy, and show yourself and others some empathy, the mind rests with you and ceases to solution-seek. Ironically, it is after that moment of pause where you’re looking at the messy situation in the face, that the clearest solutions usually come to mind.
Download a guided meditation app.
As an over-thinker myself, for some time I thought that meditation was just a fad. But I was wrong. There is much value in taking just 10 minutes out of your day in order to sit in silence, and focus on your body and on your breath. It is actually a remarkable exercise in self-control as you try to keep random thoughts at bay and pay attention to the physical sensations of your body.
It may be frustrating at first and you may wonder if it is even working, but over time, it has the potential to become your little quiet sanctuary of the day.
As with everything in life, balance is a virtue. I can’t speak to the pros or cons of, say, meditating 1 hour every single day. For me, 10 minutes is enough, and consistency is key.
When you can, control your environment.
When you catch yourself overthinking, realize that it may be caused in part by your environment. Now naturally, we can’t always control all the details of our environment. But we do have more control than we think.
For example, maybe you’ve had a very busy week. Your bedroom is starting to get pretty messy. Clothes are strewn all across the floor. You’re stressed and in a mental fog. But then out of the blue, you decide to put on some music and clean up your room, and do it right. Clothes folded, bed made, desk sanitized, books organized. External order very often influences our internal order.
Another example: you work in an open space at the office. You feel like you’re stretched too thin. Your attention is constantly diverted to message pings and coworkers walking by your desk and walking to your desk. You can’t seem to make any headway on critical projects. But then you stand up, grab your laptop, and head to an empty cafe, or a couch by a window, or a quiet meeting room. Put in some noise-cancelling ear buds with ambient music. Focus: activated, slowly but surely.
This isn’t groundbreaking, but it bears repeating. If you’re stuck in a cycle of overthinking, make some changes to your environment. It will bring the added benefits of getting you moving and giving you a change of pace.
I know what it feels like to be infected with the cancer of overthinking. It can be exhausting. But once you become aware of the inefficiency going on inside your own head, you can start to turn the tide ever so slightly.
Don’t take this too seriously. Put these tips into practice, yes, but smile and laugh when you inevitably get stuck again. Hold things loosely and your mind will start to experience more freedom.
You have a gift: you like to think. Use that power well.