Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I also feel this is true when it comes to blogging. If I can’t find a blog post that offers what I need, why not just write it? Lately I’ve thought a lot about how much time I spend overthinking. I mentioned this to a few of my friends and they’ve said, “Ugh, I do the same thing!”
Perhaps you’re not an over thinker so this topic doesn’t concern you. Perhaps you’re a person who can easily brush things off or let a shrewd comment in one ear and out the other. If so, you are amazing!
Unfortunately, I am not that kind of person.
Instead, I will replay a conversation entirely too many times. If I stated something in an odd way, did I offend someone? Or, maybe it was the opposite. I wasn’t attuned enough or didn’t appear to be listening intently. Did that offend someone? Maybe someone said something to me that could be nothing but could also definitely be something, so I furrow my eyebrows and perseverate over certain words or tone of voice.
Another type of overthinking is feeling guilt about something that happened in the past or worrying about something that could happen in the future. Both of these are such a waste of time. It’s impossible to change the past or know what’s going to happen down the road. It’s a waste and energy to do either of these things. They say to “live in the present” but that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Upon reflection, this has been a core trait of mine throughout my life, but only recently have I noticed it affecting my everyday mood and productivity. Maybe I was blaming my overthinking on other things like taking care of two small children or grieving the loss of my mom or going through a divorce.
But now, the ashes of my life are settling after a tumultuous period. I have much so be happy about and grateful for, but the overthinking persists. Ironically, I find myself overthinking small matters more than big ones. Maybe that’s because we’re supposed to overthink the big things. Who knows?
In response to my desire to find strategies, I did a bit of research and came up with the following tips to help combat overthinking:
1). Take an objective stance: Step back and think about the situation objectively. Assess the facts, not the emotion. Pretend like it’s happening to someone else. What would your advice be to them?
2). Pray or send happy vibes to three people: Thinking about other people instantly moves thoughts from internal to external and away from one’s self.
3). Find a grounding item: Select something (a stone, rock, painting on the wall, etc.) and focus on it hard for an extended period. If it’s something you’re holding, how does it feel in your hand. Once your mind is relaxed, you can let it wander to whatever is causing you to overthink. A relaxed mind will think more productively than a mind that is anxious. This exercise is a form of meditation.
4). Consider longevity of importance: Will this matter in five days, five months, five years? Depending on your answer, offer the situation that much time. Meaning, if this is going to affect you for five years, perhaps you should focus on it pretty heavily and consult inner and outer counsel. If it’s going to mean nothing to you in a few days, don’t let it suck energy out of you.
5). Take an unplugged stroll: Physical activity, even a little, can do wonders for the brain. It not only releases endorphins, but it offers some mind/body balance, which is often off-kilter. But when you go on this stroll, do not take your phone because inevitably you’ll be compelled to check a text or answer a call or worse, stare down and mindlessly scroll through social media, completely missing out on the sites and sounds around you. Perhaps there are other times where you need your phone to snap photos, but if this truly a walk to combat overthinking, leave your phone elsewhere.
6). Listen to an expert: Many celebrities and podcasters offer inspiring, empowering podcasts and books on Audible. Some of these folks are Oprah, David Goggins and Gretchen Rubin. Our internal voices can be exhausting and judgmental. It’s often helpful to quiet that voice with an outsider’s.
7). Look for solutions: Dwelling on negative thoughts isn’t good for anyone. In response to your negative thinking, switch to problem solving mode. Look for ways to solve the problem and ways to avoid it in the future.
Along with the above strategies, here’s a handy-dandy exercise created by Shira Gura, a well-being coach and author from Isreal. It’s called the S.T.U.C.K. method.
S: Stop. Take a pause. Redirect your mind to your breath.
T: Tell. Tell yourself what emotion you are stuck on (anxiety, perhaps?) and allow yourself to actually feel that emotion.
U: Uncover. Make a list of the thoughts on your mind. Then, investigate the validity of them, one by one. Ask yourself: “Is this thought 100% true?”
C: Consider. Recognize what other viewpoints to your situation can you consider? (This is where you get unstuck from overthinking!)
K: OK. Hold yourself in self-compassion for having had gotten stuck on overthinking in the first place.
And, here’s another helpful exercise from Lydia Di Francesco, a wellness consultant from Ottawa, Canada. It’s called the ABCD method.
Ask ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ — When you answer this you realize that the worst thing is really not that bad.
Make a Plan B — After you’ve determined the worst thing, you can counter it by coming up with Plan B (and even C if you want to feel more at ease).
Create a To-Do List — Write out all the things you need to do today then cross out the things you don’t actually need to do today. Of what’s left, prioritize your list.
Do it — Move down your priority list, focusing on ONE thing at a time (no multitasking).
Sometimes we’re hard wired in certain ways so no matter what we do, the overthinking will still happen, but we can lessen the severity and frequency if we’re equipped with strategies. If you have others, I’d love to hear what they are in the comments section. Or, if you try some of these strategies, let me know which ones work best for you.
I hope you have a fantastic day!