3 Tips to Overcome Overthinking
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Overthinking. We all do it. Thousands of years ago planning out the specifics of every possible scenario was what kept us alive. Now it only keeps us standing in the grocery aisle for two hours trying to choose between two different kinds of cookies.
We've talked about overthinking here before, but because it's the time of year when people are making new plans, setting new goals or contemplating new courses of action, I feel the subject bears some revisitation.
Overthinking leads to a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety, but in addition to that, it's extremely counter-productive.
The Problems With Overthinking
Time suck – Overthinking, contemplating various and even numerous possibilities, alternate situations and courses of action takes time, a lot of time during which you are not moving forward or making progress. That time would be much better spent focusing your thoughts and energies only on the most promising one or two possibilities and scenarios in order to solve the challenge with which you are faced.
Promotes indecision – When you're faced with a problem and you open yourself up to too many options, the result is that you have a more difficult time choosing an option to go with. When you overthink things, you tend to try to consider and then solve too many possibilities, and the result is more often than not, you solve none. You become paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of the situation which now appears much more daunting.
Postpones action steps – If you're stuck and immobilized, you're not taking action. You're failing to make any decisions or move in any direction that may help you to solve your problem or escape your situation.
Encourages negativity – Overthinking invariably causes you to seek out as many possibilities as you can regarding what can go wrong. You don't overthink to consider what may go right. And considering all of those “gone wrong” scenarios encourages you to think that there is more of a likelihood for failure, doing the wrong thing or making the wrong decision than there is for success.
But you don't have to bog yourself down in the paralysis of analysis. Here are three tips to help you curb your overthinking.
How to Stop Overthinking
1. Plan a mental map of your problem – When you are first presented with a problem, try to take a deep breath and come up with a plan for tackling it. If possible, write a list of steps you can take to address this problem. Pretty soon you'll find that you are worrying less about what to do next.
2. Avoid situations that can cause you to overthink – Sometimes we are aware of exactly the type of situations that lead to overthinking. Think about the areas of your life that cause you to worry unnecessary and see if there are ways that you can avoid the situation entirely. Maybe you can even combine steps one and two to create an avoidance plan.
3. Distract yourself and stay active – Exercise can help you reduce overthinking by keeping you active. When you are exercising, you don't have the mental space to worry about anything but your next rep or step. Distracting yourself from your overthinking will help you forget what was making you stress out in the first place.
With these three simple steps you can begin to overcome the overthinking that keeps you up at night and keeps you stressed. It is possible to think clearly and rationally about your future without causing unnecessary stress over problems that may never even come to pass.
So as you plan for today, this week, this month or the rest of the year, remember these steps when you start to overthink a situation. Don't overthink it. Using these tips, you can go into your next problem happier and healthier.
What causes you to overthink? Tell us in the comments.
Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.