How to recognize overthinking? - A torrent of negative thoughts
Why don’t I feel happy? Did I do something wrong? Am I doing enough? Why can't I do it? 🤯 There you have it, a snippet of all the negative thoughts that are constantly running through my mind. Whether it be replaying past events, stressing out about current ones, or worrying about what the future holds, my brain never really manages to switch off.
A single drop that triggers a flood of negative thoughts
All these headaches do not come from nowhere, there is often a trigger, you know, an event which gets the ball rolling. Whether it be a dirty look from a co-worker, being late to an appointment, an oversight or even a compliment, something stirs everything up. Being an overthinker means being assailed by a flood of negative thoughts for the slightest reason. And once the floodgates are opened, it’s already too late…
Because yes, the big problem with overthinking is that it doesn't encourage action. We brood precisely because deep down, we don't really want to take action, to correct things, hence the annoying tendency of overthinkers to pose as victims, but also to lock themselves in a vicious circle. We often rack our brains searching for past reasons as to why we currently feel bad, all whilst getting anxious (👋 hello anxious anticipation) about a future that does not seem as rosy as expected. 🙈 Finally, we skillfully jump from one negative thought to another without solving anything.
Woman and anxiety: Worries accumulate
If you are a woman, bravo, you surely tend to deliberate much more than your male compatriots. In fact, most women, especially those in relationships, have a higher degree of involvement than men. They are more sensitive to the judgments of others and tend to listen to their emotions more, however, that doesn’t mean that they know how to manage them better.
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema conducted a survey, in the United States, on 1,300 people, and she concluded that women were twice as likely to ruminate than men. If in addition you are affected by anxiety, it is the winning duo towards overthinking. If the slightest remark can trigger a multitude of questions and thoughts, the uncertainty linked to the future and the tendency to see it in a dark light do not help musings.
>>> You will take 5 minutes... How to better manage your emotions on a daily basis
How do I know if I am a serial overthinker?
If you often have negative thoughts, if you tend to be pessimistic about your future and to dissect your past, if you do it often and if you brood over these thoughts again and again, then there is a great chance that you are a victim of overthinking.
A few things can help you test yourself:
Do you often feel lonely, tired, and unmotivated? Do you find it difficult to concentrate? Do you often think back to missed actions, mistakes, failures? Do you replay the movie several times? If you often or always find yourself in such or such a situation, it is surely that you have a tendency to replay.
"Unplug, turn off the lights and block out the noise. Unplug. Unplug everything."
10 solutions to stop overthinking
The problem with these incessant deliberations is that they lock you into a negative pattern and can often lead to depression. It's all the more serious because it's very difficult to free yourself from overthinking because it's a real vicious circle: the more I contemplate, the sadder I am and the sadder I am, the more I cogitate, etc. 🐄
In her book, Women Who Think Too Much, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema offers strategies for breaking the overthinking cycle:
- 1. 8 minutes of distraction: It may seem short, but it is the time needed to break the circle of obsessive thoughts. The ideal is to immerse yourself in an activity that requires your full attention and distracts you.
- 2. Disassociate your deepest self from negative thoughts: "you don't spend enough time with your son" The little voice that tells me, this is only the voice of negative thinking, it is not me expressing myself, and it is not who I am.
- 3. The STOP sign 🛑 : This is THE thing to visualize if you start to feel like an overthinking session is on its way.
- 4. Write down your fears: Writing already takes a weight off your shoulders and by listing your fears, you can also realize that many of them are irrational.
- 5. Small daily pleasures: Every day, offer yourself a small pleasure that will make you feel better.
- 6. Make time for overthinking: If you are facing a difficulty, whatever it may be, make time for it. This way, you won't feel like you're running away from your problems and later on, you'll be able to take a step back from the situation.
- 7. Think practical: If you feel a little sluggish, before letting existential questions torture you, ask yourself if you have had enough sleep, if you are not a little stressed, etc.
- 8. Forgive: Learning to forgive is one of the keys that will allow you to move forward more serenely in life, with a clear mind.
- 9. As I am and as they are: Do not constantly compare yourself to others. Be in agreement with yourself and your values. Accept yourself as you are, and accept others as they are. Don't be too demanding of others.
- 10. Don't wait for someone to come and save you: When something is bothering you, take action to change it or accept it. I have often thought that taking action requires a lot of strength, courage and effort, more than I have. But taking action doesn't have to mean changing your life, turning everything upside down, starting over. Sometimes the changes can be small and still bring a maximum of well-being. Just as accepting a less than ideal situation is not an act of weakness. No situation is perfect. Accepting is also learning to let go and focus more fully on what is essential, on what makes us happy.
3 Tips to avoid overthinking
To avoid relapse, there are also a few little habits to put in place:
- 1. Avoid disturbing situations that generate overthinking: Typically, we surround ourselves with positive people and avoid those who are negative, psychic vampires and other toxic people.
- 2. Stop setting unattainable goals that are often discouraging and a source of frustration. To set achievable goals, follow your wishes and above all, practice the SMART method.
- 3. Practice open-mindedness and self-discovery by engaging in new activities. Everything is good, as long as you feel good about it and above all, calm.
It happens even to the best of us: 7 quotes about overthinking ✒️
- "Take time to deliberate, but when the time to act comes, stop thinking and go for it." Napoleon Bonaparte.
- "We die from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything." Anthony Hopkins.
- "If you treat every situation as a matter of life and death, you will often die." Dean Smith, University of North Carolina basketball coach.
- "Man is not so much concerned with real problems as with the anxieties he imagines about real problems." Epictetus.
- "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." Albert Einstein.
- "No need to see the whole staircase, just climb the first step." Martin Luther King.
- "I think, I think and I think. I've thought a million times about not being happy, but never about being happy." Jonathan Safran Foer.
Editor’s opinion: Constant deliberation is often associated with other disorders…
Too much cogitating ends up making us feel horrible. Overthinking is a source of great suffering, but the good news is that avoiding having thoughts in a loop can be worked on! Often, this disorder is associated with a generalized anxiety disorder or a cognitive distortion, which is why you should not hesitate to make an appointment with a psychologist to discuss it. Over the course of the sessions, you will calm down and be able to say stop to overthinking!
🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... It's here and now!
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