What is Overthinking?
Overthinking, often referred to as rumination, is when you dwell on or worry about the same thing repeatedly. Worrying over a major decision such as choosing a university, switching careers, or buying a car is normal, but if you find it hard to stop thinking about certain thoughts that are playing over and over again in your mind, you are likely overthinking. Therapist Jessica Foley says “The hallmark of overthinking is that it is unproductive.” Examples of this include example might be spending hours ruminating on a decision resulting in you missing a deadline or losing sleep.
Awareness: Notice when You’re Overthinking
The first step to stop overthinking is to notice when you’re overthinking. Overthinking is a habitual thought pattern that is specific to you. For example, you may overthink when you’re home alone. If you notice this, it will signal that you need to transition into one of your coping strategies. Ask yourself “What is usually the first clue that I’ve been overthinking?” and then you can begin identifying things you can do instead. Or you can try to challenge your negative thoughts.
Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Once you are aware that you are overthinking, slow down and remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts. Not every thought you have will be true! Challenge your thoughts and ask yourself if they are realistic or try to consider different scenarios. You can also work toward reframing your thoughts in a more empowering way. Learning how to positively reframe them can help relieve the tendency to overthink.
A healthy distraction can be helpful, especially if you build them into a routine. Rather than sitting around endlessly worrying, a distraction can give you a break and get your mind focused on something more productive. You might even find that your brain found better ways to work out a solution in the background while you were distracted with another task. Examples of distractions include working out, painting, reading, or cleaning.
Schedule Worry Time
Scheduling worry time is a classic technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy. The worry time technique involves scheduling a time during the day that is devoted to worrying. The idea is that rather than worrying about things throughout the day, you designate a small part of the day to worry about everything that’s troubling you and work on finding solutions for things within your control. Tips to go about a worry time include:
- Set aside a block of time
- Keep the place and timing consistent
- Save your worries for that time:
- Address your worries
- Focus on being productive during the day
- Tackle other fear-inducing activities during worry time
- Transition out of worry time
Talk it Out with a Therapist
Talking it out with others instead of ruminating about it on your own tends to be helpful. If you’re not comfortable talking to your friends about it, try talking to a professional. Talking to a professional can help identify habits and patterns you aren’t able to notice on your own. A therapist can act as a neutral third party to help you overcome your thinking habits. Life Balance Therapy offers professional online therapy solutions and in-person therapy in San Antonio, Texas. Don’t let your anxiety control you, take the first step today!