Over-thinking: Why and how to stop?

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Are you indecisive? What you should have for breakfast, what kind of phone case to get, what to say in an e-mail to your teacher? Have you ever taken some screenshots of the conversations with your crushes and spent hours picking apart the details with a friend? Are you always searching for “hidden messages” in situations or conversations? Are you constantly worrying about posting the perfect picture or analyzing your crush’s song lyric statuses? Looking back at thinking about all of the awkward things you said, about all of the situations where you might have offended someone?  You are a classic over-thinker.

Most of us are over-thinkers at least in some situations: weighing every single option before making a move, focusing on details of a situation and ignoring the big picture. Over-thinking happens as we grow older and our curious, child-like brains become filled with rational, concrete knowledge. When we’re young, our brains are at the peak of curiosity, making billions of connections every minute and soaking up information like a sponge. Kids usually are encouraged to think creatively as they attend drawing, music and other classes. Children are confident about their own ideas even if they are incorrect. As we face school, we are taught to base every idea with a concrete fact. That’s when we stop thinking outside of the box, we stop giving our own ideas because we are afraid of being wrong. And this contributes a lot to over-thinking.

It’s important for people to know they have choices when making decisions in life. And the only way we learn about the wide variety of choices we have is by obtaining knowledge and accumulating information. Yet, if we have too much information at hand, we become overwhelmed. When we become exposed to seemingly endless choices, our decision-making process is stunted. So, if our education system provides us with an overload of information and has made us terrified of being wrong, and if throughout our lives we are constantly learning new perspectives and ideas from which we base decisions, over-thinking seems kind of inevitable. We always want to make the right choice, and we have way, way too many choices.

How much time I have wasted on over-thinking every single thing happening in my life? Just for once I would like to go with the flow and stop worrying about everything around me. I am sure that I’m not alone in this, so that’s why we have to learn some ways to fight it!

Cognitive restructuring

Sorry for using this fancy term, but the meaning of it is actually simple! It’s just plain restructuring of your negative thoughts. Let’s imagine a situation where you meet your boss at your workplace and he just walks past you without saying anything. You instantly imagine the worst: he is not pleased with the work I do, maybe he wants to fire me. And you just concentrate on that thought. Try thinking of some other options! Maybe he’s worried about his own performance, maybe he was just thinking what does he want for dinner and so on. Having these other versions your negative ones become less believable!

Talk less

Over-thinkers, especially those of the female gender, tend to talk everything out when they are worried. Talking might help in some cases, but most of the times it just makes things worse. If, for example, you talk about your worries with another over-thinker, you both end up analyzing every single detail of your negative problems and after the conversation you are even more upset, because everything just seems to be bad! How to stop doing that? Try writing it all down. It will help to structure your thoughts and the problems you believed were major, may now seem to be silly!

Redirect your attention, get busy!

Instead of talking and over-analyzing, just use your energy for something more beneficial! For example, go running, start doing yoga, read! You can start things that you’ve always wanted to do: join the theater group or learn a new language! As a result, you may meet new amazing people, discover some new talents of yours and change your life!

Realize you can’t predict the future

Trust that everything happens in its proper time and place and you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

No one can predict the future; all we have is now. If you spend the present moment worrying about the future, you are robbing yourself of your time now. Spending time on the future is simply not productive. Spend that time instead on things that give you joy. I know it’s insanely hard to just let yourself go with the flow, but it’s better for all of us if we just realize that everything happens now and worrying about tomorrow is not the best idea.

Be grateful!

You cannot have a positive and a negative thought at the same time, so why wouldn’t you just stay with the good note? Thinking about all of the good you have might really help you! Even if it’s something very little, for example, having a cup of your favorite tea. To notice your blessings for sure, you can start making a daily list of the good things you have or the nice things that happened that day. For a better result: get a gratitude buddy and exchange lists, so you have a witness of the good things that are around you.

And remember, ‘through hardships to the stars’! Patience is the key to solving this problem. It can be a bit hard at first, but if you really want it and you work on it, eventually you’ll start focusing on the present more! And I am with you, people, trying to change the way I see things and trying to just be happy with what I have around me!

By Laisvyda Andrejevaite 

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