Overthinking everything is absolutely frustrating. You may feel like you’re lost down a rabbit hole of thoughts replaying the same conversations, same scenes, or same experiences over and over again. Or maybe you feel as though you need to over-plan, over-pack, and over-prepare to make sure that nothing will go wrong. Or maybe you feel like an overheating computer with 75 million tabs open trying to balance everything.
No matter your experience, overthinking can be overwhelming—and mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder can make overthinking worse.
Though the thoughts and feelings of over-processing may feel inescapable, the truth is that with time and practice you calm your mind.
Overthinking affects how we feel about ourselves
For many of us over-processors, overthinking is tied to how we feel about ourselves. We get stuck in a mind-loop of what we should have, could have or would have done in a situation. Or thinking about what we should have said or would have said to a certain person. This can leave us not feeling inadequate, frustrated, and ashamed. If overthinking starts to make you feel this way, it’s a good time to stop and reflect in the moment. And try to figure out what triggered the overthinking in the first place.
Overthinking affects your body too
Because our minds and bodies are connected, overthinking can impact our bodies too. For example, when we feel “butterflies in our stomachs” we may be feeling nervous or anxious about something. Or when we feel fear, we may shake or feel stuck like we can’t move. Sweating, feeling overwhelmed, and having a sense of urgency are physiological examples of overthinking. In addition, overthinking can also make us feel exhausted and irritable. When we feel this sense of panic or exhaustion, it’s a sign that we may be overthinking and should try to pause and calm ourselves.
Gaining perspective from overthinking takes time and practice, but it is possible to master and incorporate into your life. Tools such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness can help you quiet your mind. If you’re trying to calm your overthinking in the moment, try one or a combination of these things:
Get social support from trusted friends or family members
This can do wonders for getting you out of your head. Simply saying your thoughts out loud to someone who will listen can grant you a whole new perspective. Constructive feedback from a person whose opinion you value and trust can also help you to see whether your thought process is helpful or not, giving you a chance to make changes where necessary.
Acknowledge that you are overthinking and try to direct your thoughts away from what’s causing you to overthink. Try asking yourself:
- What exactly happened?
- What was the thing or action that triggered you?
- What was I feeling? Can I name and identify those feelings?
Distracting yourself, meditation, journaling, and pros and cons lists are also good ways to direct your thoughts away from what you’re obsessing over—and think more intentionally. The more you practice thinking intentionally, the better you will become at identifying your patterns of overthinking.
Set a time limit for overthinking
Allow yourself to overthink but set a time limit for it. For example, if you need to research something that you like to purchase like a backpack then give yourself a time limit to do the research. If you give yourself 30 minutes, then at the end of the 30 minutes buy whichever backpack seems good enough for you. Limiting your overthinking helps prevent you from staying trapped in your thoughts and allows you to move forward.
Being an overthinker can be frustrating, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to run your life. If you are concerned overthinking is getting in the way of your daily life, consider taking one of our mental health tests. Or try this activity for overcoming negative thoughts. An overactive mind doesn’t have to be who you are, even if that’s how it feels right now.