Do you tend to overthink things? Consider what you should have said or done? Relive discussions or circumstances? Analyze mistakes in great detail? Get consumed with what-ifs or I-should-haves? I used to do this all the time but finally realized that overthinking things was pointless and didn’t add value in most situations.
It is important to have some insight into ourselves, our motives, our choices, our temptations, and our actions. So, a certain amount of self-evaluation can be good, but it can undoubtedly be overdone. Too much self-evaluation keeps us focused on ourselves and the things we should have done, ought to do, and will do. We dwell on our guilt, shame, and regrets when we overthink. And overthinking can lead to depression, anxiety, and analysis paralysis.
If you are a chronic overthinker, here are five steps you can take to overcome this tendency.
- Acknowledge Your Thoughts
Familiarize yourself with your thought patterns so that you can quickly identify when you’re falling into the overthinking trap. When you do catch yourself overthinking, ask yourself the following:
- Am I feeling stressed or anxious?
- Are these thoughts preventing me from being able to focus or move forward in a reasonable manner?
- What am I afraid of?
- When did these thoughts start and what could be the root cause?
Usually, when we overthink, it’s in a negative way. It’s usually something like – if I had done it differently, the situation would have turned out better. Or if I make this decision, things may not turn out well. Try to reframe the situation and think about how it might turn out in a positive way – or if you are ruminating over a mistake, think about how you can learn and grow from it.
Practicing gratitude can also help you shift your mind and can even help rewire your brain. Start a Gratitude Journal and commit to reflecting on what you are grateful for each day.
- Overcome Perfectionism
We sometimes want the execution of our ideas and decisions to be perfect which results in getting stuck in overanalyzing. We are human and none of us are perfect. So, why try to be? Give yourself the grace to start and understand that it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go perfectly, Commend yourself for having the courage to move forward.
- Schedule Thinking Time
Stewing on problems for long periods of time isn’t productive, but brief periods of reflection can be beneficial. Incorporate twenty minutes of “thinking time” into your daily schedule. During this time, worry, ruminate, or mull over whatever you want. Then, when the time is up, move on to something more productive. When you notice yourself overthinking outside of your “thinking time,” remind yourself to save it for later.
- Practice Meditation or Prayer
Turning your concerns over to God through prayer can help you gain acceptance and peace. For people who are not religious, meditation or mindfulness exercises can help you focus on the present moment, rather than getting caught up in the mistakes of the past, or fears of the future.