You might be an overthinker if…
- you lose sleep wondering if something you did or said today offended someone.
- you gather facts and more facts, but never seem to be able to make a decision.
- you doubt your abilities or worry about what kind of impression you make on people.
- you stress out about things that haven’t even happened.
- you let fear hold you back because it’s easier to remain where you are or do what you’ve always done.
I could go on, but you probably get the picture. If you see yourself in any of these examples, chances are you have let overthinking hold you back from your “happy place” in some aspect of your life. Wouldn’t it be awesome to finally overcome that?
Paralysis by analysis
I once put off a decision to start exercising for almost a YEAR only because I couldn’t decide between P90X and Insanity. I watched infomercials, asked friends, and even listed the pros and cons between Tony Horton and Shaun T. Still, I could NOT make a move to pick one, so I just did nothing for a really long time.
Overthinking got the best of me. That, and the fact that I really liked french fries and cheeseburgers.
Did I ever go back and make a decision? Yes (a friend finally challenged me with a dare). I eventually did both programs (and loved them both), but boy, what a lot of wasted time spent overthinking!
So, in the spirit of NOT wasting time, here are the 4 steps I use that help me overcome overthinking, that I hope can be useful for you.
Overcome Overthinking: 4 Steps
Step #1: Reframe
You know that voice inside your head that makes you wonder if you’re good enough? We have all heard it, but why do we have to give it power to control our day? When we let that voice, that “chatter”, create thoughts of doubt and fear, we let those negative thoughts drive our actions (or inaction). The chatter tries to keep us stagnant and holds us back – sometimes from some really cool stuff!
I’m probably too old to start a business (so I just won’t start one).
What if they don’t like my presentation (so I guess I won’t volunteer)?
I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work (so what’s the use)?
Stop giving the chatter all your power! Break free from the chatter in your mind (or even the chatter you hear from others) by making a plan ahead of time and just going with it. Turn that chatter around and use your actions to drive your thoughts, not the other way around.
Step #2: Refocus
If you get stuck in an overthinking rut, change your perspective and refocus on something else. Instead of stressing out about things (that often you can’t change anyway), turn your worry into effort and work, shifting away from the anxiety of the overthinking mindset. Overthinking is a passive exercise, and action is, well… active. It’s much healthier for you and you’ll get more done.
If your doctor calls you at work and says they’d “like to do more tests”, resist the urge to overreact to worst case scenarios and hypothetical worry. When you do eventually get all the facts, focus on actual solutions with the information you have. The more you are active in refocusing, the less chance you will obsess over it.
Step #3: Reevaluate
A lack of a clear vision can cause overthinking. Do you make decisions in different directions on a whim or what mood you’re in, or based on your core values and principles? Are you a people pleaser who struggles with saying no? Without a clear vision of your top priorities, you may find that your head swirls with too many possibilities, leading to indecision and inaction.
If you live according to what you care about most in life and what your top priorities are, your values can guide your decision-making, and you may find your life starts moving in the direction you want it to go.
Step #4: Release
Overthinking usually involves some form of regret or worry, whether it be about the past or the future. For believers, being able to release that worry and rumination to God allows peace and happiness to overtake the worry and fear.
The apostle Paul shows us a way that we might deal with overthinking.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. ~ Philippians 4:6
What if the next time you found yourself in a state of incessant worry, you stopped everything and just let God handle it (worried less, prayed more, and were thankful for everything)? In verse 8, Paul even suggests WHAT to think about instead:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8
And in verse 9, we are assured of the peace that will follow:
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:9
Now I don’t know about you, but I welcome more peace and happiness into my life!
Bring. It. ON!
So if you are an overthinker (or as Buzzfeed calls it, a binge thinker), here’s something to think about. Overthinking can lead to negative feelings and relationships, and can damage your health in the form of insomnia and depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, and more. Try using the 4 steps to Reframe, Refocus, Reevaluate, and Release, to overcome overthinking and bring yourself to a state of happiness, balance, and a more productive life. Your happy place is waiting! Let’s go!
To your success and beyond,