Overthinking involves repeatedly replaying what happened last week or last month, second-guessing everything you said and did, and visualizing the worst-case scenarios.
Ruminating, dwelling and worrying are other names for it. The idea of thoughts on an endless loop with diminishing returns was even given its own term by Psychology Today: “redundant deliberation.” And although you might not think of it that way,
When you repeatedly think about the same thing or situation until it interferes with your life, this is overthinking, also known as rumination. The two main types of overthinking are dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. According to research, overthinking is linked to depressive, anxious, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD).
Symptoms of Overthinking
There are a few signs you can look for if you’re unsure whether you’re overanalyzing a certain circumstance or worry. Overthinking can show up as:
There are several causes of overthinking. Here are some to think about.
1. Not Focusing On Solutions
Problem-solving is different from overthinking. Overthinking involves ruminating on the issue, whereas problem-solving entails seeking a resolution.
Imagine an impending storm. The distinction between problem-solving and overthinking is as follows:
Overthinking: I wish the storm wouldn’t arrive, I think too much. It will be terrible. I’m hoping the house is unharmed. Why must I always experience these things? This is too much for me.
Problem Solving– “I’ll go outside and gather up anything that might blow away. To stop flooding, I’ll place sandbags against the garage door. I’ll go to the store to buy plywood if it rains a lot so I can board up the windows.
2. Having Repetitive Thoughts
Ruminating or continually talking about the same topics isn’t productive. But when you overthink something, you might catch yourself mentally replaying a conversation or constantly visualising negative thoughts.
A 2013 study that was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that dwelling on your issues, mistakes, and shortcomings increases your risk of mental health issues.
You are more likely to dwell on your thoughts as your mental health deteriorates. It’s a vicious cycle that can be challenging to escape.
3. Your Mind Won’t Shut Off
Overthinking can make you feel as though your mind won’t turn off. When you try to fall asleep, your brain may even seem to be working overtime as it replays scenarios and makes you imagine bad things happening.
Research backs up what you probably already knew: rumination disrupts sleep. Sleeping is affected by overthinking. Additionally, overthinking reduces the quality of your sleep. Therefore, it is more difficult to fall asleep deeply when your mind is preoccupied with excessive thinking.
Having trouble falling asleep could lead to more worrying thoughts. For instance, if you don’t fall asleep right away, you might anticipate being exhausted the next day. You may experience anxiety as a result, which could make it even harder for you to fall asleep.
4. Decisions Are Uncertain
When you overthink something, you may find yourself criticising your previous choices.
You could waste a lot of time believing that if you only had that other job or hadn’t started a business, your life would be better. Perhaps you become angry with yourself for missing the warning signs sooner because you feel they should have been obvious.
Rehashing and second-guessing are a form of mental torture, even though some healthy self-confidence can help you learn from your errors.
5. Making Decisions Can Be Hard
You might try to persuade yourself that thinking more carefully and carefully will benefit you. You are, after all, considering every angle of the issue. Overthinking and obsessing, however, actually serves as a roadblock. According to research, a lot of thought makes it difficult to make decisions.
You might be overthinking things if you can’t decide on anything, from what to eat for dinner to which hotel you should reserve.
You’re probably wasting a lot of time looking for second opinions and investigating your options when, in the end, those minor decisions might not be that important.
How to Control Overthinking
1. Take Notice Of Your Thoughts
Writing things down somewhere is one method of keeping track of your thoughts. You could keep a journal the old-fashioned way or use the thought record on your phone to enter information while you’re on the go.
Recognize how you’re feeling, whether you’re dwelling on the past or worrying about things you can’t control. It’s also a good idea to begin developing the ability to identify repetitive thoughts that serve no purpose.
2. Challenge Negative Ideas
Keep in mind that your thoughts are just that—thoughts. You won’t be thinking about anything that is realistic, accurate, or even true. The tendency to overthink can be decreased by learning how to reframe it in a more constructive manner.
When you catch yourself thinking too much, challenge those ideas. Consider whether they are reasonable. Think about different scenarios. Although it can be challenging at first, becoming aware of your own overthinking will help you learn to replace unhelpful thoughts with constructive ones.
3. Focus On What You Can Control
Never forget that allowing yourself to become too much into your issues won’t help anything. Try to shift your attention to what you can do to stop or fix the problem if you have any control over what is happening. Consider coping mechanisms if you can’t change the situation.
Take a quick walk, sit in meditation for a few minutes, or limit your focus to what is in front of you if you need to quickly de-stress. When you’re feeling more at ease, consider how your outlook and efforts can influence both the present and the future.
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