I have been told many a times I need to stop “overthinking”. This was frustrating. How was I to stop? Was I to simply stop thinking? Humans have over 70 thousand thoughts a day, my brain is my favorite attribute, why would I turn it off? Fuck, am I now overthinking overthinking?
After reading a lot of books and doing A LOT of introspection I was able to overcome my overthinking. I am sharing my experience in hopes that I can help someone who does not know where to begin. This advice is based off of my experience and it may need tweaks for each individual person. I am going to use overthinking about a previous event as an example but this technique can be used for any thoughts including future focused thoughts.
First, realize that overthinking does not exist. Affirm that there is no such thing as overthinking and realize that you are simply not thinking in the most productive way. If something keeps popping into your thoughts it needs to be resolved. By thinking about it over and over again it is not doing you any good. If you do not resolve it and burry it away it will come back. While they may genuinely want to help, someone suggesting you are overthinking is invalidating and not helpful – they should probably think more.
Second, allow yourself to think in a different way. Question when you are thinking about something a lot or hyper focusing:
“Why am I thinking about this so much?”
“What is bothering me?”
“Is this actually bothering me or is it something else?”
The more emotional intelligence we have the better equipped we are to uncover why something is in our thoughts. Things are rarely what they may seem so if you are thinking of an event that happened a few years ago it could actually have nothing to do with that event. It could be anxiety. Or, it could be that when the event happened you did not allow yourself to come to terms with it, you buried it and now it’s back. Or, it could be that you did not act your best when the event happened and you have regret. Whatever the case, try to uncover why this thought keeps forming.
Third, force yourself to live in the moment. I used to have trouble sleeping. When I should have been sleeping my brain was full of thoughts. Cringeworthy experiences would come to mind. I would stress about work and things I could not control. I overcame this by forcing myself to live in the moment. I would remind myself that this time of my day was for sleep and I could focus on that thought in the morning when I am getting ready for work. In the morning I did not care to think of what I was going over the night before so it must not have been that important. Eventually the stressful thoughts went away completely.
Fourth, learn to accept. If you are thinking about a past event accept that it happened. Come to terms with it. Play it out in your mind if you need to. Sometimes no matter how much we prepare and try we do not get the outcome we would like. It is tough, and you may need to constantly remind yourself. Accept. Remind yourself that other people make mistakes and have cringe worthy memories. It is all part of the human experience. If you do not like the way you acted or how something played out use that as an opportunity to better yourself and act differently the next time. Understanding control is very helpful when you are trying to learn acceptance.
In closing, what others have characterized as me “overthinking” has helped me to find out a lot about myself. If a thought is reoccurring in my mind I use it as a learning opportunity. An opportunity to gain more emotional awareness. I am much better for this. I’ve built confidence and I no longer allow others to invalidate my feelings by telling me I am overthinking. Best of luck to all the thinkers out there!