Overthinking happens when your mind races like a horde of galloping horses without clear direction or destination.
We all overthink from time to time, and there is nothing wrong with that, we are only humans.
But the problems start arising when overthinking leads to feeling overwhelmed and the burnout.
Entering an overthinking mode is like entering an enchanted forest - your mind gets foggy and you persuade yourself that the more you think on the subject, the sooner you will arrive at a solution. In reality you walk in circles and tire yourself out completely.
And the opposite of thinking a lot is true: sometimes thinking less is more beneficial.
Thinking less about a problem at hand allows your mind to relax but continue to ponder on essential things without you continually nudging it. It's like cycling - when you gather a certain speed, you don't need to pedal any more. You will continue going forward.
In order to make an overthinking a thing of the past, you need to introduce new daily habits to your routine.
I hope you find my 9 recommendations beneficial and useful:
1. Set Your Day Up For Success.
A good morning routine is the foundation of a successful and stress-free day.
If you have a smooth, productive and successful morning, the chances are you day will continue in a similar rhythm.
Make sure you spend a few minutes on creating your to-do list, setting up intentions and meditation.
When you know what's coming, it's easier to tackle even unforeseen circumstances.
2. Deal with Things that are in Your Control and Accept those that are Not.
This is one of those bits of advice that everyone is using and talking about. But what does it really mean?
It means making a conscious decision to only worry about things that you can change.
If you are running late and you missed your train - worrying about it won't bring it back, will it?
But if you are running late, you've missed your train, but the next one is on the platform on the other side of the station - you better run for it!
And you need to learn to accept that there are and always will be things outside of your control.
You cannot force a train manager to bring that missed train back.
If you feel guilty about it, or get angry with yourself - it won't help anyone, especially you.
You need to accept that things do happen. And if you cannot control them - do not fret about them.
3. Sometimes Less is More.
Even though it sounds counterintuitive, but there is scientific evidence, mentioned in Harvard Business Review, that by doing less, we could be more productive.
But thinking less we could arrive at a solution quicker because we give our tired brain cells a bit of a rest.
Scientific American also mentions a study where researchers showed that by doing less, you arrive at more creative solutions and ideas.
Manish Saggar, a psychiatrist at Stanford and the study’s lead author, summarized the findings: “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up.”
Next time you are tired but need an answer to a query - stop thinking and start doing something else entirely.
You will be surprised at how soon your mind will start throwing answers at you when you are not consciously forcing them to appear.
4. Journal or Write Down your Thoughts in the Evening.
To clear your mind and prepare your head for a good sleep, you need to make sure there is nothing left lingering in your head. Hence writing a journal before you go to sleep is a beneficial habit.
It will help you to clear your mind and create a draft plan for tomorrow.
But like with everything else - remember point 3 - while creating a to-do list or journalling - do not overthink what you are writing.
Creating the Eisenhower Matrix might be a good idea. Follow example below and list your tasks accordingly.
5. What the Worst that can Happen.
This is a good exercise if overthinking has taken over your mind.
Ask yourself a question: what is the worst thing that could happen if X comes to fruition?
Play this game until you feel sick in your stomach or cry with laughter.
Scare yourself by potential gloomy outlooks. Then reread what you've written. The chances are you will start criticising yourself for being melodramatic even before you finish a few sentences.
If you make your' what if' into an over-exaggerated comedy, you will also enjoy a brief laughing therapy session. And as we know, laughter is perfect for our wellbeing.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Remember Richard Carlson's book 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Overtaking'? It's still one of my favourite short books ever.
Small things only seem significant and vital in our head. When we write them down, they stop being that big and if we think about them in a grand scheme kind of way - we'll soon realise how small they are.
Are you worried about missing that work deadline?
Why don't you better spend your time thinking about how to rectify this problem if you cannot avoid missing it.
Write down things that could go wrong and keep an eye on them.
7. Keep a List of Things that Could Go Wrong.
Knowing and keeping an eye on what might cause an issue is a good habit to cultivate.
If it's a work thing - list every potential issue that you could think so. Because if you know all the challenges that might arise - you are half prepared.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”― Benjamin Franklin
Instead of pretending that everything is fine and nothing could go wrong - be honest with yourself. Note those issues down and come up with a few simple solutions if you can.
But do not get too stressed out about it. Stressing out about a potential issue will not help you.
But being prepared - will remove the chance of an unpleasant surprise at a later date.
8. Live in the Now.
It's not surprising that Eckhart Tolle's 'The Power Of Now' became such a best seller all over the globe. Simple words but so deep and profound - be present in the now.
If only we learn to live in the now, there is no need for overthinking. Because overthinking comes from feeling ashamed or guilty about the opportunities missed yesterday, and worrying about tomorrow.
But today is now, so it's free from shame, guilt and worry.
9. Be your Best Self.
Accept that you are good enough. At any given moment, you are doing your very best for that particular moment.
It only sounds like we could have behaved differently. But the thing is, we are smarter after we thought of something. So before then - we were not that smart. Even if we were comparing ourselves with ourselves 5 minutes ago.