What happens when that “what if” keeps you guessing all the time? Sharon Martin is here to help you order some “be in the present” time.
What is overthinking?
People who overthink feel like their brains won’t turn off. They’re constantly questioning, second guessing, and evaluating to the extent that they create “analysis paralysis,” or the inability to make decisions.
Signs you’re an overthinker:
- analyze things to death
- second guess everything
- catastrophize or expect the worst
- have insomnia
- hate making decisions
- prefer someone else decides for you
- frequently regret your choices
- struggle with letting things go
- take things personally
- highly self-critical
- never feel 100% certain
- feel anxious
- feel like you can’t turn you brain off
Overthinkers will spend extraordinary amounts of time trying to make decisions. In the end, they often second guess and regret the decisions they do make.
In order to avoid all this, overthinkers often defer to someone else to make decisions. Overthinkers will often have no opinion and say “I don’t care” or “I don’t care” when asked. This is just easier than getting caught up in their heads about simple matters like what to eat for dinner. It’s easier (and faster) for over-thinkers to let someone else decide, but inevitably they annoy their family and friends because they never seem to have an opinion.
I beg you, never ever take an overthinker to the Cheesecake Factory. Have you ever seen that menu? It’s, an overthinker’s nightmare! The only way I can cope is by ordering the same thing every time I go.
If you have insomnia, overthinking is often the culprit. It’s hard to calm your body and mind when your brain is in hyperdrive.
Perfectionists tend to be overthinkers. It makes sense as they’re concerned about being, doing, and choosing perfectly. This leads to replaying and criticizing their mistakes and feeling inadequate.
Overthinkers easily get caught up in the “what ifs.” What if I make the wrong choice? What if I wear the wrong thing? What if my boss hates my idea? What if my girlfriend disagrees?
If this sounds exhausting, it is. Perfectionists and overthinkers have a hard time relaxing and just enjoying the present moment.
How do you get out of an overthinking rut?
- Plan a time to think about it. For example, you can schedule yourself worry time from 8:00 – 8:15. Whenever you notice you are worrying or overthinking, redirect and remind yourself that you can think about this issue at 8:00, but until then you are focusing on other things. This way you aren’t thinking about it all day and letting it interfere with your productivity.
- Put a time limit on it. Similar to above, don’t allow yourself endless time to decide or worry. Allow a reasonable amount of time and when it’s over, you can no longer think about it. It’s done.
- Limit your choices. I didn’t have to look at all twelve thousand refrigerator models when I went shopping. And you don’t have to read the review of every single parenting book on Amazon before making a choice. Fewer choices make deciding easier.
- Distract yourself. Distraction is a very practical strategy that we all use. Sometimes you need to find something else to do or think about to divert your attention. Talking to a friend, watching a funny video, exercise, or music can do the trick.
- Firmly tell yourself to stop thinking about it. Snapping a rubber band against your wrist serves the same purpose. It’s almost a wake-up call to startle yourself into thinking and acting differently.
- Write it down. Simply writing the worry or dilemma down can help clear your mind and clarify your options and priorities.
- Let go of perfection. Life isn’t perfect. Just focus on making a “good enough” decision. Most decisions are not life altering. I knew that if I hated Serene Grey on my kitchen walls, I could repaint it.
- Embrace mistakes. Taking action and making decisions means that sometimes they will be “wrong” or people may disagree. The alternative is never trying anything, never stating an opinion, never getting what you really want. That’s no way to live.
- Stay in the present. When your mind is wandering into “what if land”, practice some mindful meditation or grounding to bring your focus back to the present.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in overthinking, indecision, and regret. Life is too short!
Photo: Bill Strain/Flickr
This post was adapted from An Overthinker’s Nightmare published on PsychCentral.com.
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