Thinking is good, but overthinking
I can’t agree more to this statement. We see people who take things very lightly and there are also people, who just over-do or overthink.
Sometimes, we continue replaying things that we should have done or said earlier, we constantly think about how we are going to perform in the future. Although, we assume, overthinking the same situation might help in detecting mistakes, but studies show that overthinking and ruminating on something troubling has strong ties with depression and anxiety.
For majority of people, overthinking may appear just an automatic way of seeing the world, but that mindset can lead to prolonged periods of depression and may even cause delay in seeking treatment. Learning how to cope with overthinking can help let go of painful memories and break out of damaging thought patterns.
Firstly, we need to understand what overthinking means. Overthinking is a common issue. It is also apparent that overthinking causes a decline in one’s mental health. This overthinking sprouts when your brain convinces you to think that you are solving your problem. But, the opposite happens. The more you think, the worse you feel. These feelings cloud your judgment and prevent you from taking a decision.
Are you an Over thinker?
Although there are evidences that suggest women are more likely to be over thinkers, the truth is, everyone overthinks at times. Usually, Overthinking comes in two forms; ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. It is often misinterpreted as a problem-solving technique or self-reflection.
When you become more aware of your inclination to overthink things, you can take steps to change. But prima facie, you have to recognize that overthinking does more harm than good.
Sometimes, people think if they don’t worry enough or rehash the past enough then somehow, they’ll encounter more problems. But, the researches clearly state – overthinking is bad for you and it does nothing to prevent or solve problems.
These are the 10 signs that say you are an over thinker:
1. I relive embarrassing moments in my head repeatedly.
2. I have trouble sleeping because it feels like my brain won’t shut off.
3. I ask myself a lot of “what if…” questions.
4. I spend a lot of time thinking about the hidden meaning in things people say or events that happen.
5. I rehash conversations I had with people in my mind and think about all the things I wished I had or hadn’t said.
6. I constantly relive my mistakes.
7. When someone says or acts in a way I don’t like, I keep replaying it in my mind.
8. Sometimes I’m not aware of what’s going on around me because I’m dwelling on things that happened in the past or worrying about things that might happen in the future.
9. I spend a lot of time worrying about things I have no control over.
10. I can’t get my mind off my worries.
If you realize that you are getting caught up in overthinking, don’t despair. You can take steps to reclaim your time, energy, and brain power.
What Therapists feel?
Rumination is a process of thinking about something in endless circles. It makes you exhausted and more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Delving a little deep about this:
1. It’s related to Cows.
According to Winch,”Ruminate means ‘to chew over'”. It explains how cows chew their food over and over. That process is really helpful for the cows to get it digested, but we, humans, ruminate our distressful thoughts.
2. Close link with Depression and Anxiety.
This whole overthinking process steals a lot of time and energy, leaving you exhausted. This makes you susceptible to its close relatives, depression and anxiety. Rumination isn’t its own diagnosis. It is unique that it can be a symptom of both depression and anxiety. The depressed person dwells on the past, while the anxious ruminator drowns envisioning the negative outcome. Our brains get stuck trying to control the uncontrollable by thinking about things we can’t change or predict.
Is it harmful?
1. We don’t overthink good things. Do we? : Rumination tends to be about the bad stuff. It is defined that these thoughts are intrusive. They pop into our minds unbidden and tend to linger, especially when it is about something upsetting or distressing.
2. Effect our bodies: Replaying such ruminating thoughts brings up the distress each time and floods our body with stress hormones. We can easily spend time drowning in distressing and upsetting thoughts. It increases our risk of developing clinical depression, impaired problem solving, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even cardiovascular disease.
3. Not good for the Brain too: Repeating the rumination cycle results in changing the brain circuitry. Rumination actually changes the structure of the brain making it easier to fall into rumination.
4. The more you do the harder to stop: It becomes a part of your routine and makes you glide into another thought. But a person who believes that “If I think a little longer, I’ll figure a solution”, is mistaken. The more habitual the thought, the harder it is to break it.
What can we do about it?
1. Being aware: Converting your thoughts from “I can’t believe this happened!” to “What should I do to prevent it?” makes a huge difference.
Once a ruminative thought becomes repetitive we need to convert it into a useful problem-solving task. Now, it poses a problem that can be answered opposed to one that cannot be.
2. Try to stop it, before it starts: Keep a set of positive statements at bay like “I’m trying my best” or “I have support if I need it”. One method to cut this rumination is to plan your thoughts next. It may sound easy but it is a little difficult task to do.
3. Distract yourself from the loop: Redirecting your attention towards something more intriguing like, a puzzle or anything that requires concentration can be enough to break the compelling ruminative thought pull. If we distract ourselves every time, the frequency of these thoughts would diminish and its intensity too.
4. Journal your thoughts out: This might seem strange but writing down these thoughts in a journal could help. People slip into rumination when they’re trying to go to sleep. So, having a notepad next to their bed to jot down their thoughts might leave you at peace. Now, tell yourself that you won’t forget the thoughts as they are noted and you need a break from them as you rest.
5. Remind your Brain that you are in charge: One can try restoring order by making a blanket rule to interrupt your unneeded thoughts whenever they come up. Then, you can plan ahead for a positive thought to switch to.
6. Do not pressure yourself on handling it alone: According to Weherenberg, “There are several methods, ranging from meditation to mindfulness practice to cognitive techniques that will help people take charge of their own thinking. But a person who feels ruminating is too hard to stop, should consult a professional.”
How to Survive?
Let’s have three checkpoints on how to survive “Overthinking”.
1. Dealing with your thoughts
Cognitive distortions, before you begin to address or cope with your habit of overthinking things, you have to learn what kind of thoughts occur. Any time, you find yourself indulging in painful, unpleasant, or self-doubting thoughts; you’re on your way to overthinking because of cognitive distortions. The most cognitive distortions include: All or nothing thinking (seeing things/situations as black or white), Overgeneralizing (seeing one negative event as a cycle of defeat/embarrassment), Mental filtering (dwelling only on negative thoughts), Jumping to conclusions (assuming what other people are thinking without evidence or believing that the event turn out bad), Emotional Reasoning (believing that the way you feel reflects an objective truth).
First, try to identify which cognitive distortion you face and write down the thoughts you experience. Then, practice learning to recognize your “overthinking” thoughts, as they arise. Try silently saying the word” thinking” whenever you begin to overthink – it may help ground you and break you out of your spiraling pattern.
Note down and Challenge your thoughts.It’s easy to fall into autopilot mode, but, if your day is filled with situations that have potential to induce anxiety, you might be walking straight into the overthinking and catastrophize traps.
Once you’ve identified the incidence of overthinking or catastrophizing, you can begin to challenge the validity of such thoughts. Challenging those thoughts, by remembering other thoughts that may help you break out of your pattern.
You can also try saying, “These are just thoughts, and they are not truth”. Try positive self-talk to replace self-doubt or overthinking. So, instead of criticizing yourself or ruminating on bad thoughts, try to focus on things you did well and continue to do well.
2. Overcoming your fear.
Relaxation Techniques. Practicing such techniques is helpful in breaking out of harmful through patterns. Relaxation techniques can also have physical benefits, like lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, reducing the stress activity hormones in your body.
Distract yourself.If you find yourself constantly overanalyzing situations, you will have to find a more active way to break out of that thought process. Try distracting yourself with a positive, healthy alternative. It is also important that you don’t let your overthinking dictate your decisions. Elsewise, this overthinking will prevent you from doing anything and you will mostly regret it.
Write it out. This is a very effective way of processing your thoughts. You can set a timer for about 10 minutes. In this time, write as much as you can, explore your thoughts.
3. Changing your mindset.
Alter your view of failure. Whether you’re afraid of trying something because your overthinking has made you believe you’d fail? Failure is not always bad, a lot of what we see as failure is not an ending but a beginning to new options, new opportunities. Assure yourself, that behaviors may fail but people (you) do not.
Try not dwell on the past. An important part of overthinking is to identify that you cannot change the past, and dwelling over it will not help change anything. While learning from the past is an important part of growing. But overthinking and ruminating on those past events is harmful and unproductive.
Realize you can’t predict the Future. No one knows what will happen, and your overthinking certainly isn’t going to predict the future any better. Remind yourself that no one knows what the future holds, and if you suffer from overthinking, your “predictions” are mostly built from self-doubt and fear of the unknown.
Before starting the day and before going to bed, make a list of what you are grateful for. Get a gratitude buddy and exchange lists so you can pay attention to good things around.
Overthinking is something that can happen to anyone. But if you design your own system to deal with it, you can minimize the negative, stressful thinking and turn it into something effective and productive.