Does your thinking tend to drift into an eternal cycle of the why’s, the how’s, and the what if’s? Welcome to the club my friend. I am by nature an over-thinker. I have a PhD in overthinking. I’ve mastered it just about all my life. I’ve been guilty of overthinking about my overthinking. After a while it sounds like the mind of a crazy person and that’s how you feel just about half of the time. Nothing just is what it is- there are deeper levels to everything and you have got to figure out how far that iceberg goes beneath the surface.
It’s a blessing and a curse right? You can help others think through their problems, give insight at angles that aren’t the norm, it makes for a great writer and for a Psychology major like myself it works out perfectly as I enter the why’s and how’s of human behavior (because I’m questioning my own about ninety percent of the time). The curse? Living in the moment is the struggle, your mind runs late at night and sometimes it’s nothing but anxiety in disguise.
What are some of the tell-tale signs of overthinking? Well I’ve thought about it (pun-intended):
- Second guessing yourself (or triple or quadruple guessing)
- Lack of sleep at night from racing thoughts or insomnia
- Struggling to live in the moment from analyzing everything, especially things unrelated to the present moment
- Overly analytical
- Having a hard time letting things go
- Self criticism
- Thinking the worst and catastrophizing things before they even exist
- Feeling like you can’t turn your brain off
- Never feeling 100% sure
- Anxiety and other correlating symptoms from that such as loss of appetite, depression, nausea, headaches etc
The list goes on, and on, and on.
I’ll be honest with you; God has day by day delivered me from this nightmare of a lifestyle. Thankfully I have a friend who knows me well enough to bring these things to my attention and gives me the space to express myself when they flare up (kinda like hives- yeah, mental hives we’ll call it). At the end of the day, what it takes is self-discipline. Like I said before, there is a good and bad side to this and it’s all about finding the balance, having the self-awareness to hold yourself accountable to your train of thought and knowing what’s real and what’s a self-made illusion. My dad would say it’s like your first time driving a car. At first it feels like you barely have any control and overtime with maturity and experience you learn how to take the wheel and navigate things through. You learn how to become well-adjusted and steer the ship that is your mind. The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.
So here are a few things that have helped me overcome overthinking and have become a practice:
- Set aside a time to think about it.
When your mind is running on and on about something that does not pertain to the moment that you’re in, or you can’t focus because this thought just wont leave your brain and you can’t stop resurrecting it until you figure it out- designate a time when you have more peace and better timing to think it through. Literally say to yourself “After dinner I will sit down and journal or think this through, until then I have to let it go.” Take authority over your mind and don’t let it run you! You’ll feel better because you can redirect your focus to what’s in front of you without the lingering feeling that things have gone unresolved (which is second to slow and painful death).
- Write down the negative thought and test its validity.
Before assuming the worst, what is the likelihood of this thought actually being true? What are the facts surrounding the scenario? Are there other solutions? Are there other angles you’re not taking into consideration? What are your fears telling you? Remember fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is an illusion. If you’re a serious over-thinker your fears are basically real because you can project yourself down the road and see it happening. Stop that. It will be the death of you and it is your bondage. Think about those words: It is your bondage.
Fear will cause your most reasonable mental process to shut down and literally disable you from being able to separate the difference between imagination and perception. It takes you back to a child-like psyche. Remember when you would’ve bet your life on the fact that some monster was in your closet or under your bed ready to get you? Although your parents could be in the reality that it was indeed an illusion, it was undoubtedly real to you and no one could tell you otherwise. Yep, even as a grown independent full-functioning adult, fear regresses you into the thinking of a child where imagination takes over reality and overthinking is the train you boarded to get there. Get off the train. Start writing down the lies or distortions you’ve begun to foster and recognize them for what they are- a one-way ticket to your bondage. Be careful about believing everything you think. You have this incredible superpower that no other species has called parallel processing, which enables you with the ability to think about your thoughts. This means that you can separate yourself from your thoughts and begin to discern what’s healthy and what is not; and discard the following. Use your superpower.
- Slow the heck down.
Do you, like me, pace back and forth when you’re on the phone because your mind is racing with the conversation? Can you be doing one thing and be thinking about ten other things you need to start doing once you’re finished? Do you have a hard time focusing? Don’t be fooled by the cultural hype. There is no glory to a busy mind and it doesn’t always equal productivity or positivity. In fact, it hinders your potential, cramps your creativity and makes your world just a little bit smaller.
Stop. Realize you’re being obsessive. “I’m being obsessive right now and I need to stop.” Literally do a breathing exercise- deeply in and out for ten seconds. Visualize yourself pushing everything out of your brain and to the side. Take a walk. Meditate solely on what’s in front of you. Readjust your concentration and slow down. In fact, pick a time to not think about anything. That could be reading a book, taking a bath, taking a walk, painting a picture, you name it.
- Meditate and pray (and not in this order).
Realize that you are not alone. Overthinking is very much hand in hand with control issues. You feel everything is relying and weighing on you so you take on the the total burden- the burden of having to know everything, having to figure it out, having to have all the answers. When you have God, you are never alone. Really you were never meant to live without Him. You have this duality constantly going on in your life where God is working His super into your natural, so whatever is out of your control can be given to Him because in the grand scheme of things He is working all things together for your good.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)
When you’ve been an over-thinker for most of your life, undoing the habit takes practice, intentionality and self-discipline. But you know what, you have to make a decision that says, “This will not be the rest of my life.” What do they say, the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one, right? Well, you’re still reading this which means it has resonated with you in some way so we can say that’s a step. Remember God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power and a sound mind.
Hey, if this post related to you or was helpful in any way, do me a favor and comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
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