Overthinking: The Art of Creating Problems

Published October 22nd, 2021 - 07:15 GMT
Overthinking feels like being on a never-ending rollercoaster of thoughts that leaves you feeling drained and about to explode.
Artwork by Rami Khoury-Al Bawaba

Are you still thinking about what you said 3 weeks ago? Or what people might be thinking of you because you did that one thing? If the answer is yes, then chances are you are as much of an overthinker as the rest of us! 

Overthinking feels like being on a never-ending rollercoaster of thoughts that leaves you feeling drained and about to explode. But unlike any other rollercoaster, this one is anything but fun, because it leaves you dizzy with thoughts running around your head.

From “I really think I did well in my presentation” to “I am so stupid! Why did I say that while presenting, I made a fool out of myself!” overthinking tends to bring up ideas and problems that weren’t even there. Simply put, overthinking is the act of thinking too much or too long about something that is usually out of your control.

With thinking over and over again about something, one can start to come up with scenarios that are not even there and even blame themselves for what they did or did not do. Overthinking can be frustrating and exhausting, trust me I know.

I haven’t always been an overthinker, but I have found myself lately ruminating things over and over again without any outcome. The only thing overthinking was doing for me is sucking the energy out of me and leaving me more confused than before. 

Contrary to what some might believe, thinking about something over and over again will not bring you closer to a solution, instead it can entail serious consequences. In fact, studies show that those who overthink tend to be more stressed, have difficulty sleeping and become less creative. By putting so much pressure on your brain to think and think and think, you are actually suppressing its ability to be creative and rest. 

“There are times when the worry about the problem is a lot worse than the problem itself.” - David Spiegel, Director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford Health Care

However, the good news is that the moment you become aware that you are overthinking, you can take some steps to help you fight that crippling monster! Here are some ways: 

- Change the narrative
We spend most of our time inside our head, telling ourselves different kinds of things. But have you ever paused to notice what kind of story you keep telling yourself? Are you telling yourself things that will hold you back or help you move forward? 

It is important that we pay attention to what stories we tell ourselves. The things you repeat to yourself over and over again will become the things you believe about yourself. Identifying what self-limiting beliefs you have and replacing them with positive and empowering words is the first step to changing your narrative. 

- Be aware and shift your focus to present
The moment you notice yourself overthinking, try to take a step back and talk yourself out of it. It is important that you practice shifting your focus to the present moment. Being present is no piece of cake, but with the right amount of practice and self-awareness, you will get there. 

Every time you catch yourself overthinking, breathe and try to focus on where you are right now. Writing down your thoughts can also help take some weight off your mind. Meditating and breathing exercises can also help you become more grounded and aware. 

- Let go
We have all lived in the past for some time. Whether it is while reminiscing about the loss of someone or thinking about the things you could’ve done better, many of us still live in the past. Thinking about the past brings with it a lot of overthinking baggage that can stop you from moving forward. 

Therefore, it is important that we keep the past exactly where it is, in the past. Let go of the things that have already passed, because there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot go back in time and change things, so you might as well focus on the now and what you can do. Forgiving yourself for the past is the first step to letting go of it. 

- Focus on what you can control
So much of overthinking comes with our need to control situations and outcomes. However, what so many know yet fail to understand is that thinking about things out of our control causes more harm than good. If you have a major task at work, ruminating about all the things that can go wrong will do you no good. Instead shift your focus on finding solutions for the problem. It is important that you take a step back, look at things from a different perspective and focus on solutions rather than the problem itself. 

- Do the work! 
We all know that saying and doing are two completely different things! It is one thing to become aware that you are an overthinker, but actually putting in the effort to change that is another thing. It is necessary that you do things to help you relax, de-stress and calm your mind. Sitting in a quiet place in nature or going for an outside walk can help the brain become calmer and sharper, says a 2008 study. Exercising is also a great way to get your mind off things and boost your mood. Taking time off from social media and technology can also be a great way to disconnect and just spend some time by yourself. 

Regardless of what you decide to do to declutter your mind and calm your racing thoughts, make sure that you are doing something. Do not sit and surrender to the waves of overthinking, because they will drown you. 


A post shared by @notsosecretdiaryofanxiety


“Overthinking is the addiction of thinking, and just like with any other addiction, there is a way to overcome it. The antidote to overthinking is doing. We spend most of our lives waiting to make up our minds and take some kind of action, and between thinking and doing is a whole lot of wasted time spent on overthinking. The problem is that overthinking does not bring any change with it, and change is an inevitable and necessary part of life. It is only by doing can you change and work on putting an end to overthinking.” - Dareen Kotob, Emotional Fitness Coach and Motivational Speaker

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