How often do you spend your free time worrying, perhaps even worrying yourself to sleep? Do you think about situations at work, convincing yourself that you could have done better? Do you stress over things that haven’t even happened, coming up with the most unfortunate scenarios? We all have a habit of thinking through important decisions, but that’s not overthinking. Overthinking can prevent you from getting things done. Read on to learn how to control overthinking to aid your productivity.
What Is Overthinking Really?
Unfortunately, sometimes it can be too easy to blur the line between the analytical approach to life and constant overthinking. Tracing back your steps to pinpoint what could have gone wrong can actually help improve future decision-making. However, when this practice turns into a continuous period of beating yourself up, and even worse, imaginary stressful situations, you have fallen into the overthinking trap. This is something that can easily set you back in terms of life, work, relationships, self image, and productivity.
Overthinking goes beyond work-related worrying. It has the power to suck you into the neverending cycle of questioning all of your life decisions. This is a torturous habit, and you may not be even aware of it at first.
The whole ordeal is so serious that there’s a scientific term for it: rumination. It involves two main aspects, namely reflection and brooding. And while reflection can be somewhat helpful, if you don’t learn how to control the overthinking, it can trigger a negative mood, less productive behavior, heightened anxiety, and depression.
In the end, replaying past and imaginary scenarios in your head over and over again can lead to “analysis paralysis,” where you render yourself unable to make a single decision. It’s also the surest way to accumulate stress, which affects both physical and mental health negatively. It may affect productivity to where it may not even be a priority amongst other concerns.
Why Do People Overthink?
It’s human nature to ruminate, but there’s nothing natural in excessive, all-consuming rumination. Before you take the recommended steps to control this urge, it’s imperative that you pinpoint your personal reason for this bad habit.
There are many potential reasons behind overthinking. In some cases, this may be the product of depression and anxiety. The best way to learn how to control overthinking may be to seek help for those underlying mental conditions.
Sometimes rumination stems from the inability to comprehend and accept different situations in life, leading to the uncontrollable need to seek the right answer. Some people may have to deal with the stress of making a tough decision, while others may seek validation and acceptance for their own past actions. And more often than not, it may be a mix of several different things.
How to Control Overthinking
Managing the urge to overthink is similar to breaking any other bad habit. For starters, you need to become aware that you’re doing it. Most importantly, be kind and patient with yourself. Keep in mind that just like there are many different reasons behind rumination, there are as many if not more ways to control it and various methods work for different people.
The Technique of Cognitive Restructuring
One of the effective ways to minimize the negative effects of overthinking is to catch yourself in the act and then deliberately change the narrative of your thought process to fit a positive outcome. Basically, instead of focusing on potential negative situations, make yourself visualize positive resolutions as well.
Practicing mindfulness means being present. You don’t have to ignore your worries, but you can accept them and leave them be. The point is to come to an understanding that while your worries may exist, there’s ultimately nothing you can do the change the past or what may happen in the future. All you can do is live and act in the present.
In order to make a positive change and learn how to control your overthinking, it’s recommended to build awareness about it. Even though this takes time, it can help you (re)connect with your inner voice, leading to self-acceptance. Listen to yourself and your inner monologue, and write down what it tells you. Journaling can be extremely beneficial, as the act of writing down your thoughts allows you to view them more realistically.
Whatever approach you take to control your overthinking, distraction techniques will help. However, it’s important to make a conscious effort to distract yourself every time you start ruminating. Engage in your favorite hobby, pick up a book, start watching a movie, go out for a walk, and do whatever else make take you away from that harmful process.
Remember that you hold the power when it comes to the way you live your life; only you can control your overthinking. Meditation can help with the much-needed introspection, and these meditation apps can make the whole process easier.