Okay, some of us are overthinkers without severity. These are people like me.
My dad told me as a child, “Becky, everything seems worse at night”. Boy, was he right! These are the nights that you can’t seem to “stop your mind from going on and on”. These are the nights your negativity and “what if’s” come in to play. When you find yourself overthinking, it can be helpful to ask yourself specific questions to gain clarity, challenge irrational thoughts, and redirect your mental focus.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you begin your journey to overthinking:
- Is this thought based on facts or assumptions? Challenge the accuracy of your thoughts. Are you making assumptions without concrete evidence? What is a fact and what is an opinion or assumption? “My boss hates me and she is going to fire me” is way different than “My boss has a different personality than I am used to”.
- What evidence supports or contradicts this thought? Look for objective evidence that either supports or contradicts your current thinking. This can help you assess the validity of your concerns. Is your boss offering you productive feedback that you can actually use to improve your skill set? Do you actually want to be friends with your boss out side of work? Are you doing your level best to preform at work? Are you listening to feedback and implementing this is a positive way?
- Is this within my control? Determine whether the situation or problem is something you can control or influence. If not, remind yourself that excessive worrying won’t change the outcome. Most of the time, the outcome is out of our control. If it is in your control, do your best and know this is your best and know this has to be good enough.
- What’s the worst-case scenario, and is it realistic? Consider the worst possible outcome of the situation you’re worried about. Is it likely to happen, or are you catastrophizing? Is the family going to fall apart if there is not a certain item on the dinner table? Are you going to go broke if you buy this item, you were not prepared to buy? Is the entire vacation going to ruined if you can’t go to the destination of your choice? Think out of the box and realize your way is not always the best way.
- What’s the best-case scenario? Similarly, think about the best possible outcome. Often, overthinkers focus on the negative aspects and overlook potential positive outcomes. Challenge yourself and find the best case and not the worse case scenario.
- What’s the most likely outcome? Try to realistically assess the most probable outcome of the situation. Avoid letting your thoughts become overly pessimistic. Remind yourself that the outcome is more than likely not solely due to your actions.
- Am I mind-reading or assuming what others are thinking? Overthinkers often make assumptions about how others perceive them or their actions. Ask yourself if you have concrete evidence to support these assumptions. Stop with the people reading, you might be reading it wrong. Some people just don’t like you or your actions. It does not mean you are a failure. It is okay.
- Have I dealt with a similar situation before? Reflect on past experiences where you faced challenges or made decisions. What did you learn from those experiences that can help you now? This might be a repeating pattern, learn from it and be grateful that you have learned something.
- What are the facts and what are my emotions? Distinguish between objective facts and your emotional responses. Emotions can cloud judgment, so try to focus on the facts when making decisions. Emotions are subjective. They will change, come and go. You may see it from different lenses after you “sleep on it”.
- Am I ruminating on the past or worrying about the future? Determine if your thoughts are centered on the past, the future, or the present moment. Mindfulness can help bring your attention back to the here and now. Yes, history can repeat itself. When it does, learn from it and make the changes needed to actually change your way of thinking.
- What is the next practical step I can take? If the situation requires action, identify the next concrete step you can take to address it. Taking action can alleviate some of the stress associated with overthinking. If it is to actually address a person or avoid them? What can you do (if anything) and do it. Don’t avoid something out of fear that you might actually learn from.
- Is this thought helping me or hindering me? Consider whether your current thought process is productive or counterproductive. If it’s not helping you, try to shift your focus to more constructive thinking. Most of us are our own enemy. Ugh. Really listen to what you say to yourself. The hateful mean things you tell yourself. Realize these comments are destructive and only assist you in destructing yourself.
- Can I let go of this thought for now? Sometimes, it’s beneficial to consciously decide to set aside a particular thought or concern temporarily. You can return to it later with a clearer mind. Make a choice to STOP the nonsense and negative chatter you have come to accept as normal.
Asking these questions can help you gain perspective, challenge negative thought patterns, and reduce the intensity of overthinking. It’s a valuable skill to develop for managing anxiety and making more informed decisions.
Dealing with a pattern of overthinking can be difficult and overwhelming but you are not alone! If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit.
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