I realised a long time ago that I am a habitual over thinker. And this overthinking is the root cause of much of the anxiety or sadness I experience every now and again.
If I had a penny for every time I replayed a negative situation or experience in my head I would be a millionaire.
I can have such a hard time trying to turn my head off at times that I'll lose sleep and project my worries into the future (and in turn create problems that don't actually exist).
I bet you didn't realise that overthinking could be (probably is) the root cause of so many of your problems, too!
Overthinking is associated with anxiety, depression, paranoia, indecisiveness, binge eating, binge exercise, binge TV watching, and insomnia.
It was actually during my holidays last year when I came up with the perfect analogy to describe what it feels like to overthink.
If a negative feeling is a plastic bag, I spent an awful lot of time living with the bag over my head! Instead of just putting the bag to one side, and observing that the bag is there I lived "in" my thoughts (aka the bag) and became consumed by them and sometimes suffocated.
Thoughts would play on a loop in my head whilst I obsessively searched for problems instead of solutions.
Over thinking is just that, over thinking. We become consumed and fixated on the problem and dwell on every minute detail.
We live in the problem (or the feeling) instead of just observing that it is there OR looking for creative solutions.
I know how it feels to become trapped in the negative loop so here is my advice on how you can stop overthinking and find compassion and peace instead.
1. Recognise that you are overthinking!
When you can see that you are reliving an event take a moment "to remove the plastic bag from your head" and just put it beside you and observe that it is there. You are not your feelings, you just created them is all.
2. Use healthy distractions
When you are able to recognise that you are overthinking you can use healthy distractions to quieten your mind and invest your energy else where; read a book, go for a walk, practice gratitude or clean the house. Over thinkers have the potential to very good at living in the present moment (mindfulness) because they are predisposed to focussing their energy on just one thing. It is a simple case of refocussing your energy.
3. PRACTICE SELF COMPASSION
This strategy is perhaps my favourite. Dr. Kristen Neff is the author of one of my all time favourite books called Self Compassion. According to Neff, self-compassion is when you show the same kindness to yourself that you do others. She goes on to say that self-compassion has three elements: self kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. For me, the piece on mindfulness changed me... I really mean that.
n her work, mindfulness means that we take a balanced approach towards our negative emotions. Mindfulness requires that we not over-identify with our thoughts and feelings, which is exactly what I did before discovering self-compassion.
4. END THE CO-RUMINATION:
I think this one is very important. So many over-thinkers, especially us gals, want to talk it all out over a glass of vino when we are feeling stressed, frustrated or anxious! Now, while talking about the worries can sometimes help, it usually will make things worse, especially if the person you are talking to is also an over-thinker. You might end up working yourself up into a downward negative spiral. This type of co-rumination, where two ruminators get together to over-think about their lives together, can lead both people deeper into negativity and stress.
Some of the greatest strides I have taken to understand my overthinking was under the guidance of a professional. So, find a coach or a therapist who can walk you through an action plan to overcome overthinking and kicks start your journey towards increase success, happiness and confidence today! You got this :) The Empowered Women Workshop is perfect for over thinkers so check it out here.
Sarah is a life coach and motivational speaker. As the co-founder of The Better Life Project, a movement dedicated to helping you live happy, healthy, positive and confident lives and with oodles of infectious energy she is super passionate about helping to inspire you make your awesome life happen. She’s the “go to” life coach for anyone feeling stuck in a rut, lacking in confidence or struggling with low self-esteem or body image. Sarah offers life coaching and mentoring services and works with clients in person in Dublin, Ireland and over Skype around the world.