Sometimes we can find ourselves falling into a mental rabbit hole where we start to overthink a mistake, something that we said to someone, a opportunity we didn't take, a relationship gone wrong, a thing that was said to us...it all can cause us to feel completely out of control...
I have personally been a victim of this topic...I used to waste my days ruminating (rehasing the past) because of all the mistakes I've made. It's easy to think of all the things you could've done...
Here are some real life examples that I've heard from people...
"I should've taken my time or I wouldn't have gotten into that car accident."
"I wasted my time in that relationship...it was 5 years out of my life."
"I shouldn't' have said what I said to her, now I feel like she treats me different."
Then there's worrying....which is predicting something negative when it hasn't even happened.
"I can't do my job well...it's only a matter of time before I get fired."
"I don't know if I ever will amount to anything...I just feel useless."
"What if people see me for who I really am, they won't like me, they'll stop being my friend."
I'm sure there's an endless amount of both ruminating and worrying thoughts you could think of as you read this blog post. I know I have my own list that I could think of.
The issue with overthinking is that you are shackled by the past and dreading the future. In the end, this will hold you back from the person you could become. Listen, we all have regrets, but the key is to utilize them as a tool for your future...learn from the mistakes do not dwell on them. Worrying is an absolute waste of your talents, it will crush your dreams and hold you back.
Overthinking has been linked to causing issues internally. There has been research that states the dwelling and constant thinking of the problems you have increases your mental-health problems. As I have discussed in the past, when people overthink it causes them to want to escape their thinking which can cause the abuse of numerous healthy and unhealthy activities; drugs, alcohol, food, exercise, sex...etc. The constant escaping can cause serious addictions to develop.
Another important issue with overthinking is it's effect on sleep. Many of my clients and people I come into contact with share with me that a major issue why they can't fall asleep or stay asleep is due to overthinking. Sleep is vital for us to operate as well functioning humans. If you're not getting the right amount of sleep you need, you won't be feeling your best.
So how do we stop overthinking...
Become more self-aware. Self-awareness helps in many aspects of our life as well as overthinking. When you're self-aware you can recognize when your thoughts are getting out of control so you acknowledge that your present time is getting taken away from the unproductive thinking that you're doing. Bring yourself to the present moment and allow your mind to quiet, it takes time, but work on your self-awareness and it will become easier.
Start to challenge your thoughts. We often can think and get carried away on ridiculous thoughts. Learn to acknowledge when your thoughts are exaggerated and a bit imaginative. Sometimes we can go into a tailspin and allow our mind to run wild with thoughts, so take it back...think realistically.
As I've stated...learn from the past to move you into the future. We are humans...mistakes are inevitable...therefore, use them to your advantage. When you ruminate on something you've done in the past start to 'active problem solve' and think about how next time if you run into a similar problem how you'll handle it. Instead of going to the negatives of your regrets and mistakes use them as tools to help you in the future. This with self-awareness can help you to use your overthinking as a tool to better yourself.
(For instance...if you rushed and it lead you to get into a car accident...next time when you're rushing remind yourself what happened last time and that in the end, a few minutes or however long you need to get where you're going, is better than the feeling you felt when you had that car accident. Lesson learned.)
Schedule 'thinking time'. I started doing this in the past couple years and it has made an insane amount of difference in my life. You need to schedule time for yourself so that all you do in that timeframe is think. Yes, think. This allows you throughout the day when you start to be consumed by thinking to remember you have 'your time' for that. Start off with giving yourself 20 min. a day to think and in time you'll figure out a schedule that works for you. In this time you can let all thoughts come out, the negative, the past, the mistakes, the worrying...let it out. However, it's imperative that throughout the day when your mind tries do any of this thinking you remind yourself, "I have time to think about that later." Slowly but surely, this will help your mind to stay present.
Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness. In the end, I base my therapy in a mindful approach. I feel this approach is important because realistically that's all we have, here and now. Therefore, when my thoughts try to take me away from the present moment I just get mindful. It's a lot of practice however, the more you practice it, the better you'll become at it. I often tell people have a mantra that brings them to the present. Mine for instance is "let it be." When I tell myself "let it be", I'm bringing myself to the present as well as accepting all the things I have no control of. Find one that works for you, it could really be anything, but it should remind you to get to a state of being conscious of the present.