Carole Spiers’ valuable tips for breaking the cycle of overthinking and creating peace of mind

Overthinking is to think about a problem too much or for too long. You have something on your mind; you continuously think about it; the thought gets deeper and you start worrying about circumstances, events and potential possibilities that then you could end up with conflicting thoughts racing through your head. Unfortunately, to overthink is a natural part of life for many of us, even when we are not aware that we are doing it.

Of course it is vital that we all think constructively. Reflecting upon the past can be good for us – having the memories that we like to hold onto but equally as important is to let go of those more painful ones. There is also nothing wrong with pondering on your current career and life goals, then planning how to achieve your aspirations.

A Case Study

Jenny is an unmarried, 35 year-old client of mine who owns two residential properties – one in central London and one in the suburbs – but she cannot decide in which property to live. Consequently, she sits for hours and hours thinking about the decision whether to live in London and be isolated from her family and friends or to move nearer to them in the suburbs. This thinking and rethinking has been going on now for over eight months. Which property to live in, and which one to be rented out as an investment? She is so stressed-out about this that she can think of nothing else and it is now my job to help her to discipline her mindset to try to cease overthinking and to come to a firm decision.

Thinking back

Of course, there will be times when you will regret missed opportunities and bad decisions and we are all guilty of that at some time. Or you may be worried about the future – your family, your income, your health or your career choice. However, you need to avoid a ‘thinking overload’ whereby information goes around and around in your head with no resultant resolution. It is similar to revving the car engine without it being in gear – the vehicle remains stationary and just wastes valuable fuel.

When we overthink, it often means that our brain leads us to make erroneous assumptions, which in many cases can be negative.

How to stop overthinking

Breaking the cycle is not easy as, unlike our computer, there is no ‘off’ switch. However, perhaps some of the following suggestions might be of help:

Overthinking in your career

Do you consistently overthink about your career? If you are unhappy with where you are or what you have done to date, then you need to become proactive and to start to explore other options.

Overthinking in relationships

If you think you might have upset someone or have done something embarrassing, then contact whoever was involved to determine whether you need to apologise. It maybe that the incident was inconsequential and has long been forgotten by the other person but it is still at the forefront of your mind – so now might be an opportune time to make a determined effort to stop thinking about it. Or maybe the reason why a particular friend or colleague has not contacted you is because he, or she, is busy and not because they don’t like you.

Challenge your overthinking

Our beliefs can be either real or imagined and it is all too easy to exaggerate these to ourselves. Our inner voice may well be making incorrect negative assumptions and by challenging them, we can lessen such incessant overthinking.

Breaking the cycle

Breaking a cycle of overthinking does not happen overnight but, with practice, it is certainly possible. The first step is to recognize that you have a mindset that often goes into a negative overthinking mode, automatically.

When you overthink a problem, the chances are that you lose focus on the bigger picture. In order to overcome this, you may possibly need a therapist or other professional help – but it will be well worth it because it is important that your mind learns how to switch off and focus on those issues that will take you forward and make a measurable difference to your life.

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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