Being an overthinker: Advice

by - November 01, 2020

Paint lines and palm tree leaves with calligraphy text reading switching off

Most people who know me well, know that I tend to overthink everything. I don’t think that overthinking is necessarily always a bad thing- sometimes it can allow you to be more reflective. However, it can mean that it is difficult to switch off, especially if this is something you find yourself doing a lot.

Overthinking can lead to you contemplating a range of situations and stressing about them when often most of them will not happen. Or it can result in always thinking of the worst possible scenario. I find if I am going through a difficult time or a particularly stressful period, I tend to overthink small details more and worry about them more. As an overthinker, I’m sharing below some reminders to keep those thoughts in check, help prevent some unnecessary stress and help you rest/ switch off.

The worst doesn’t necessarily have to happen. 

When life gets rough and throws lots of tough situations at you, it’s easy to fall into overthinking and imagining the worst out of everything. But that is all it is. A possibility. If we’re looking at probability, you’ve also got the possibility of something good happening. I know from personal experience that when it’s hard, and bad things you didn’t expect occur, that you almost get prepared by imagining the worst. It feels like a much more real possibility because of recent events. But, things can and do get better (everything is temporary) and unless it does happen, it’s just a probability- one which could turn out to be positive rather than negative. What I can definitely also say is all the possible bad scenarios you are imagining- all of them won’t happen. Don’t worry about hypothetical situations.

If you stress too much about something before it happens, you’re basically putting yourself through it twice. 

If you’re going to have to do something that stresses you in the future, leave it to the future. There is nothing you can do about it currently by worrying about it, so it isn’t worth the energy. I know full well this is easier said than done, but it’s important to remember it really isn’t worth putting yourself through it twice by overthinking- think of it as tomorrow’s problem or next month's problem. I find taking it day by day, moment by moment is what helps the most when I end up overthinking about the future. What you can control is the present. The rest will come in good time.

We are harsher with ourselves than others. 

What you said to someone or how you acted that you feel was really off, likely isn’t something others are giving much thought. Research shows we tend to be harsher on ourselves than others. This means we’re holding ourselves to higher standards that others aren’t. As an overthinker, I often find myself thinking a lot about the way I acted in certain situations and whether I could have done better. Being reflective is good. But, when you think too much about what you could have done or wished you’d done in a situation you can no longer change, it becomes toxic. What is done is done. I have found most of the time, when I’ve asked about how someone perceived something I did because I was worried it might have been taken the wrong way, that 9 times out of 10 they didn’t give it much thought. I was reading too much into it.

Talk about it. 

Talk it through. As I mentioned above, I find with overthinking that I attach more importance to certain things than is necessary. If you find you’re overthinking how someone might have taken something or how you acted, just ask. That way you don’t have to agonise over all the different ways it might have been misinterpreted and if it is the case that overthinking you was right, you can sort it out. Talking about what you’re overthinking can also help put it into perspective. Sometimes you need a person who is more detached to just bluntly tell you if you’re spiralling and making something bigger than it needs to be.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been kept awake because I was overthinking aspects of my life. I know how you can fall into the trap and how hard it can be to break the cycle as often one thought leads to another and suddenly you’re reading too much into everything. Whilst I don’t think I’ll ever stop overthinking entirely and I don’t think it’s always a bad thing, the tips above have helped me keep it more under control. It’s allowed me to switch off more and I hope it helps you too.

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