We humans have a complex way of interpreting the world around us. Our consciousness is certainly unique in the animal kingdom, as it allows us to accomplish great feats. But it’s not without its drawbacks. Along with our capacity to reason and process intricate thoughts comes the possibility of being consumed by them. Overthinking can leave us feeling lost and befuddled, but we’re by no means helpless in the battle to reclaim our valuable head-space.
1. Think Constructively
When we overthink, the thoughts we conjure usually play off our fears or present us with a million what-if scenarios. These thoughts can eventually form a pattern of thinking, making matters even worse. Rather than attempt to fight an overactive mind, some people find it more effective to redirect this brain power toward finding solutions. Try to ditch the cyclical thinking and reframe your worries as a problem that simply needs solving. You should be able to work through things much faster by pinpointing actionable steps you can take.
2. Embrace Mistakes
We are not our mistakes, but we sure are made stronger by them. It’s a shame far too many of us live in anticipation of our next slip-up, trying everything in our power to avoid a momentary lapse of judgment. This fixation on imaginary shortcomings can be debilitating and potentially stop you from pursuing your dreams. Instead, embrace the unavoidable nature of mistakes and regard them as learning opportunities. This will improve your outlook on any previous transgressions while removing inhibitions associated with failure going forward.
3. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Some decisions are life-changing and demand more of our attention than others. Most of what we agonize over, however, can be classified as trivial in the grand scheme of things (e.g. what outfit you choose to wear on a given day or whether you take your coffee with one sugar or two). Insignificant decisions like these should not require extensive mulling over. When you express grief over every little thing, you unwittingly create more roadblocks in your path. To save your energy for when it really matters, you’ll need to stop seeing mountains where there are only molehills.
4. Follow Your Intuition
The simplest solution is often the one that comes naturally. Intuition, or that gut feeling you get, can be a chronic thinker’s best friend. Long before we can consciously make a well-thought-out decision, our intuition has already made up its mind. Some consider intuition to be even more trustworthy than a lengthy deliberation because it comes about instinctually. After all, it’s a lot tougher to be objective once you’ve started dissecting a problem. Following an initial hunch can save you precious time, so make an effort to consult your intuition before getting too lost in thought.
5. Stay Present
Conquering overthinking takes a commitment to living in the moment. There’s an appropriate time for reminiscing about the past and planning for the future, but don’t hesitate to tuck these thoughts away should they interfere with the task at hand. Getting hung up on either will only exacerbate your worries. For good measure, minimize or consolidate whatever it is you’re working on. Though single-tasking doesn’t always get the same praises that multi-tasking does, there’s a lot to be said for taking life one step at a time. When you focus on a single objective, you can confidently say that you gave it your all and were fully present.
6. Find The Root Cause
One of the most effective ways to combat overthinking is to discover the source of your worries. There’s typically an underlying factor, so approach any unwanted or excessive thoughts by contemplating why you felt the need to address them in the first place. Are you avoiding something? Does something feel off? Questions like these are invaluable and can only be answered if you remember to ask them. Keep in mind that sometimes the distress we’re feeling is due to a deeper issue that isn’t readily apparent. Be patient—this step can be particularly arduous depending on the cause of your troubles.
At best, overthinking can be a small annoyance that is easily swept aside. For others, the urge to overanalyze things can severely inhibit their life. Thankfully, overthinking doesn’t have to be the standard. Our thoughts can only get the better of us if we let them. We all have the power to cultivate an inner voice that works in our favor and puts us back in the driver seat.