Overthinking occurs when you think about something for too long, over-analyse it and it starts to become intrusive in your life.
Everyone is guilty of overthinking from time to time but when it becomes the only thing you focus on, it can play havoc with your relationships, careers and overall confidence.
There are three main types of overthinking:
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re convinced that everyone is thinking something bad about you because you did or said something “silly” eg. ‘I just tripped over that piece of carpet so now everyone thinks I’m a klutz or drunk.’
This can lead to you starting to over-criticise yourself or have a negative attitude towards the other person for making you feel this way.
When you assume what someone else is thinking, you can start to take everything personally – a look, a smile, a quiet word to their friend can suddenly seem like an attack on you because you’re reading into every minute detail.
The think you need to remember is – the majority of the time, no one is paying as much attention to you as you think they are.
Rumination is a type of circular thinking where we continually replay something that happened in the past or worry about something that we have to do in the future.
It is exhausting and a complete waste of time because nothing can be done about either scenario. All you have is the present.
This type of thinking tends to flare up when we’re feeling anxious, scared or nervous eg. before a music exam or school presentation. It might feel like you’re problem-solving by trying to answer every possible question you could be asked in your mind but in reality, you’re just feeding your anxiety.
Similarly, if you ruminate on all the times you didn’t get a good result or grade, you exacerbate the feelings of hopelessness and depression making you less likely to do a successful exam or presentation.
Think about what you can do to improve your chances or distract yourself – you have the power to remove yourself from these ruminating thoughts.
Also known as ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’, catastrophising involves focusing on the worst possible outcome of a situation and all the negatives that could arise in your life as a result.
In short, it’s not a lot of fun.
Eg. ‘I disobeyed my parents – They’re going to ground me for a month! – I won’t get to go out with my friends – they’ll ditch me – my social life is over.’
Constantly focusing on the worst outcome can cause a lot of psychological anxiety and distress which is why it’s important to put a stop to it before it becomes overwhelming.
Ask yourself what some other outcomes could be, what evidence you have that the worst could happen and if it does, how you can deal with it.
Here are some tips on how to conquer your overthinking:
- Be aware of your thought patterns
Awareness is the first line of defence from overthinking. Not every thought requires analysis. Sometimes our thoughts are just thoughts – they’re intrusive but they’re not true.
- Focus on what you can control
You can’t rewrite the past but you can learn from your past mistakes. Instead of dwelling on the negative, try to see what positive can be taken from situation.
- Learn to meditate
It’s easier than you think. You sit in stillness and focus on your breath. When a thought comes to your mind, you acknowledge it but don’t judge it or yourself and then imagine it floating away. If your mind starts to race, bring your attention back to your breath.
- Write it down
Writing out your thoughts, fears or worries is a brilliant exercise because it physically transfers them from inside your mind to the page. Once there, you can form a narrative with them and hopefully, find a way of resolving what’s bothering you.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the easiest thing in the world to do. All it involves is paying attention to what you’re doing at this very moment. Feeling your hands in the soapy dish water, smelling the flowers in your garden, listening to the birds singing, being aware of the ground beneath your feet. It’s amazing how much we take for granted about the world around us!
Talk it through with someone
A problem shared is a problem halved. Childline is available to talk 24/7, 365 days a year. Call 1800 66 66 66 or live chat on childline.ie.