Thinking and decision-making are a part of everyday living, but when thinking and making decisions becomes overbearing and overwhelming, we are cautioned to consider if maybe we are thinking “too much.” To overthink is to think about a topic, idea, or situation too much or for too long. Unlike helpful and balanced thinking habits where problem-solving is aided by reasoning and logic, overthinking disrupts the peace of mind, skews expectations, and heightens worry and concern. Overthinking sways the mind to focusing on negative outcomes and unrealistic scenarios.
Causes and Signs of Overthinking
Because overthinking can be debilitating and paralyzing, it’s important to know potential causes, signs, and what to do to recenter and refocus your mind.
While beneficial and constructive to think thoroughly through challenges and situations, when entering the realm of overthinking, judgment is overpowered by negativity, fear, uncertainty, and confusion. Overthinking can also be caused and worsened by procrastination or poor time management, perfectionism, and feeling a lack of control. Physical, mental, and emotional signs begin to manifest when overthinking prohibits daily functionality and productivity.
When overthinking becomes debilitating and impairing signs can look like discomfort, stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, excessive worrying and dwelling, rumination, lack of focus, increased irritation, and continued cycles of negative self-talk. The more time spent overthinking, the more you are unable to act, accomplish your goals, and make timely and rational decisions.
Tackling Spirals of Overthinking
Awareness is the first step to changing perspectives and behaviors. Self-awareness and reflection can help you to navigate the reasons you are overthinking as well as the best ways to tackle negative thoughts and negative self-talk. Fact-checking and allowing yourself time to navigate what is true, what you can control, and what you are capable of can help to lessen the amount of time thinking about an unsettling or unresolved topic.
Note: It’s okay to be gentle with yourself and take a step back when overwhelmed with overthinking. Notice when you are overthinking and move forward with clarity and an open mind.
Ask yourself these questions to navigate your thoughts when overthinking:
- Why am I overthinking?
- What triggered me to overthink?
- What is in my control?
- What expectations do I have for myself or others?
- Are those expectations reasonable?
- Can I rethink my expectations?
- What are my concerns and worries?
- How can I navigate my concerns and worries?
- Can I make an action plan or a to-do list?
- How can I shift my perspective to prioritize my needs?
- Can I change how I’m thinking?
- Can I research or educate myself better?
- Can I talk through my thoughts with someone I trust?
Once realizing how and why you overthink opens avenues to redirect your mind to more reasonable and attainable possibilities and solutions.
Self-Care To Address Overthinking
Along with self-awareness and self-reflection are lifestyle changes that can help to manage the likelihood of overthinking. Become intentional with self-care and your daily expectations. Understand yourself, take action, know your limits, and set feasible goals to avoid shifting into procrastination. Know what causes you to procrastinate or triggers you into overthinking and worrying. Create routines and write things down throughout the day to help you stay on track and keep you focused. Along with being intentional and thoughtful in your daily actions is also keeping up with sleep, eating, and exercising. In all of this, practice mindfulness and remain present through each moment.
Overthinking does not have to prohibit you from achieving your goals or taking care of your responsibilities. It’s okay to have concerns and want to think thoroughly through everyday challenges, but instead of overthinking take action while also prioritizing your mental health.
Nina is a Latina from Brooklyn, NY who struggles with depression and anxiety. She finds refuge and healing through her writing since she graduated from college in 2016. Nina writes to spread awareness and hope to those who struggle with their mental health silently. She also strives to motivate and encourage self-acceptance. She enjoys creating creative and uplifting content on her blog SparklyWarTanks.com where she shares her experiences, notes, poems, quotes, and articles