Man, am I ever the Queen of this. The World Champion. Overthinking has been my nemesis for quite some time, and while thinking things through helps us to organize and plan, continuing to carry this out to infinity only serves to drive us batty.
At least, it does me. Not to mention, my friends. They don’t even use the term with me, but rather, go straight to flat-out obsessing.
Yep. That’s me! But ways exist that work to stop overthinking everything and get on with what matters. And these work for me:
1. Stop. Yep, just stop.
Did you know the psyche has a stop button? It does. And though that sounds simplistic and/or not doable, I’m always amazed when I put my hand out like a traffic cop in my head and say, “Stop!”
Gets my psyche’s attention every single time.
And no, that’s not the end of it of course, but it pauses those insane voices just long enough to drive a wedge into the continuous rotating hamster wheel and get something done.
- Examine those thoughts.
Has there been a new one in the last hour or just a rumination of all the existing ones? I’ve yet to see that answer be yes. Because once you get into obsessing, you’ve quit actually thinking. That hamster wheel is spinning on its own fuel, and I can guarantee, nothing productive is being done.
- Sort out the fact from the fiction.
That’s the work part of this. Okay, so maybe the Stop part is too! But this is where the brain actually comes into play.
Write out an actual Pro/Con list. If I do X, this could happen. If I do Y, this.
On a facing page, write out a True/False list. Which of the “facts” are actually true? Can you verify that? Which are actually false? Can you verify that?
Most of the time I find that an awful lot of them are blurry—I’m not exactly sure if they’re true or false. And if I can’t verify them, then why am I obsessing on the negative ones?
You got it—that’s where the mind goes when faced with uncertainty. Straight to the negative.
- Choose Your Own Thoughts. Sounds really airy-fairy, no? But if you don’t know if something is actually true, and another is false, choose to focus on the positive one.
Funny thing about the subconscious mind—it can be programmed. While the theory that the subconscious mind cannot act on the negative is a theory still, and many don’t agree with it, scientists widely hold that the subconscious is programmable. I.e., what we feed it through our conscious thoughts, is what the submerged part of our brain acts on.
Well then, this really is a no-brainer! If that vast part of us that governs our lives acts on what we feed it, then why on earth wouldn’t we feed it positive thoughts? And that is, of course, completely up to us—it’s our choice.
- Just Relax. Easier said than done when on that obsessive wheel, no? But once you’ve done the above, 99 times out of 100 you’ve already started to relax. And consciously relaxing is the final key to stop overthinking your life.
Meditate. Breathe. Go stare at the birds. Go train the dogs. Do anything you find relaxing and enjoyable and forget the current situation for a time. Nothing clears the old noggin like doing so.
And then things look different. And that mind, calmed again, can get back to being productive in a positive way.
How do you stop obsessing?