The phenomenon of overthinking has become an all-too-familiar companion. It’s that relentless mental chatter that keeps us up at night, hinders our decision-making, and leaves us feeling mentally drained. It’s time to kick overthinking to the curb once and for all.
Overthinking is a never-ending loop of thoughts, worries, and uncertainties that can paralyze our ability to take action and enjoy the present moment.
The brain becoms trained to believe that overthinking is the same as taking action. It is not.
Over thinking is the art of creating problems that don’t yet exist, dissecting situations from every angle, and second-guessing every choice we make.
Thinking is a good thing. It prepares you. It’s a way to process all your creative ideas.It means you’re being thoughtful in your choices.
But overthinking is not so good. It stems from your innate desire to control outcomes, avoid mistakes, or seek perfection. It leads to stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.It zaps your confidence.
Here are eight powerful strategies to help you break free from the shackles of overthinking, regain control of your mind, and find greater peace, clarity, and focus.
#1. Put aside perfectionism
Perfectionism is one of the biggest blockers to swift, effective decision-making because it operates on faulty all-or-nothing thinking.
For example, perfectionism can lead you to believe that if you don’t make the “correct” choice (as if there is only one right option), then you are a failure. Or that you must know everything, anticipate every eventuality, and have a thorough plan in place before making a move. Trying to weigh every possible outcome and consideration is paralyzing.
To curb this tendency, ask yourself questions like:
- Which decision will have the biggest positive impact on my top priorities?
- Of all the possible people I could please or displease, which one or two people do I least want to disappoint?
- What is one thing I could do today that would bring me closer to my goal?
- Based on what I know and the information I have at this moment, what’s the best next step? After all, it’s much easier to wrap your head around and take action towards a single next step rather than trying to project months or years into the future.
#2. Give equal air time to overthinking the good and the bad.
When you catch yourself overthinking, stop. Then start thinking about the good things.
- What will it feel like when I make the best decision?
- What if everything goes as planned?
- What if everyone loves this thing I’m doing?
- What if it goes so much better than I ever imagined?
#3. Accept or Deny Your Thoughts
The brain is constantly churning out all kinds of thoughts. But thinking is a two-way street. While the brain may offer numerous or near-constant ‘thought suggestions,’ it’s ultimately up to us to decide if we accept them.”
You don’t have to take every alarming thought that pops into your head as truth. In fact, you can use those overthinking moments to question and fact check what’s true, so the worried thought doesn’t have as much power over you.
#4. Try the 10/10/10 test.
Remember you can always make another decision. If you’re worried about the prospect of a decision bombing, try the 10/10/10 test.
When the prospect of falling flat on your face seizes you, think about how you’ll feel about the decision 10 weeks, 10 months, or 10 years from now?
It’s likely that the choice will be inconsequential or that you won’t even remember it was a big deal. Your answers can help you put things in perspective and rally the motivation you need to take action.
#5. Right-size the problem
Some decisions are worth mulling over, while others are not. Before you make a call, write down what goals, priorities, or people in your life will be impacted. This will help you differentiate between what’s meaningful and what’s not worth obsessing over.
#6. Ask what you have control over.
Simple and to the point. If you don’t have control over it, Let. It. Go. Focus on what you can control.
#7. Make a plan.
Set a deadline on your overthinking and take action or make a decision.
#8. Retrain Your Brain
According to Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D, a clinical health psychologist in Boston and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, ““When the brain is ‘at rest,’ the areas that light up are the problem solving areas and areas associated with self-referential thinking. So, when left to its own devices, the brain will overthink.”
That means you have to train your brain to do otherwise—particularly if you’re overthinking at certain times, like before bed. It’s possible to reprogram that habit with other mind-clearing activities like meditation and mindfulness.
Are you ready to kick overthinking to the curb?
The longer you think about something, the less time and energy you have to take productive action. Plus, thinking about all the things you could have done differently, second-guessing your decisions, and continuously imagining worst-case scenarios can be exhausting.
What strategies are you going to try to manage your overthinking?