Overthinking is when what you think gets in the way of what you want.
It’s one of the most expensive things in the world because it wastes time, creativity, and productivity. It’s an epidemic of inaction.
Essentially, overthinking is when your brain spins on a thought or an idea for longer than you anticipated. Unfortunately, overthinking tends to lean toward the negative. Left to its own devices, it will naturally gravitate toward things you don’t want to dwell on.
I have to constantly ask myself things like, “Do I want to donate an afternoon of brain space to churn over something dumb I said to a friend three months ago?” What’s worse is if I don’t give it the space to process during the day, it finds a way of creeping into my brain at night and the cycle of insomnia continues.
Thoughts are something you have, not something you hone. We can’t control them, right? That’s why whenever we talk about thinking, we describe it as something outside of us that operates on its agenda:
“I got lost in my thoughts.”
“My thoughts got away from me.”
“She got carried away by her thoughts.”
We treat our thoughts as something we have no control over. If we don’t control our thoughts, then I guess our thoughts control us.
Our brain likes to believe the things it already believes. We’re magnets for information and experiences that confirm the things we already think about ourselves and the world.
If one of your beliefs is that you’re the most disorganized mom ever, then being three minutes late to the after-school pickup line will confirm that.
Even if that morning you got both kids to school on time, worked a full-time job, planned dinner, and scheduled the carpool for soccer this weekend, your brain will still convince you to ignore any new evidence that doesn’t agree with that engrained belief.
Now that you know your brain can be a real jerk, do you want to leave your thoughts to chance?
Think about all the opportunities and adventures you’ll miss out on if these sabatoging thoughts, AKA limiting beliefs are in charge of your actions.
How do you know which thoughts to listen to?
Ask yourself these 3 quick questions.
Question 1: Is it true?
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is assuming all your thoughts are true. We believe that if it’s in our head, it must be accurate. If I think it, it must be real.
I promise you’ll be shocked by how many lies you have cluttering up your head.
Question 2: Is it helpful?
The question “Is it true?” won’t be enough to smoke out the lies in your head. Asking yourself is this thought helpful? Does it move you forward or keep you stuck? Does it lead to a decision or limit a decision? Does it generate action or apathy?
A client of mine, let’s call her Sarah, told me she will never be able to get rid of the clutter in her house. She was raised in a cluttered house and she doesn’t know any other way of living.
Well, that is not entirely true. Yes, she grew up in a cluttered home. But what is not true is that she will NEVER be able to get rid of clutter in her adult home.
It is also not helpful. It stops her from taking action. She’s already made up her mind by listening to this thought.
She can choose another thought. “I can figure this out and ask someone to help me.”
She can make a choice to take one small action of cleaning out one drawer, one closet or one cabinet.
Question 3: Is it kind?
Is the thought you’re listening to kind to yourself? After listening to it a few times, do you feel better about yourself? Are you encouraged about your life and opportunities?
For Sarah, her thought of “I’ll never be able to get rid of the clutter in my home,” is not kind. It tells her she’s not capable.
Mike Peasley, PhD, asked ten thousand people how overthinking made them feel, 73 percent responded “inadequate.” When asked if overthinking left them feeling drained, 52 percent of people said yes.
Do you know why overthinking makes you feel inadequate and drained? Because you’ve been listening to unkind thoughts about yourself on repeat.
If you’re still stuck figuring out which thoughts to tune into ask this last question:
In my work as an ADHD coach, there is one common problem that all of my clients share: painful self-doubt. The ADHD brain is, unfortunately, fertile ground for the seeds of self-doubt.
It’s so easy for us ADHD or not, to get stuck up in our heads overthinking and ruminating about everything. Much of the advice around building confidence is about changing our mindset. That is one important piece of it. But for most of us, the mindset work is so hard and takes forever.
Studies have shown that the fastest way to change all the negative garbage in our heads is to take action that proves all those thoughts wrong.
How many times have you told yourself, “I never do what I say I’m going to do. I don’t know why I even keep trying.” You’re telling yourself that you can’t count on YOU. Sheesh, if you can’t count on YOU, who can you count on? I’m telling you, you can count on you.
The key to proving this limiting belief wrong is to start to build self-trust. When you learn you can count you to show up for you, it is the beginning of you building the skill of confidence.
Start building your self-trust by making one small promise to yourself. Do it for you, not anyone else.
Pick one of the following confidence building habits and commit to doing it every single day.
1. Make your bed every morning. This tells your brain rest is over and it’s a new day. It also makes you feel productive, because you just did something, you made your bed. Of course, it looks so much better than an unmade bed.
2. Drink 8 – 8 ounce glasses of water every day. Studies have shown that the number one reason we lose focus is because we are dehydrated. What a simple way to boost focus & productivity that then boosts our confidence.
3. Don’t look at social media for at least 1 hour after waking. I feel like garbage when I’m on social media, comparing myself to everyone else, feeling like I don’t measure up. When we look at this before even getting out of bed, we haven’t given ourselves the time to figure out how we feel today.
We look at the perfect Instagram pics and everyone’s fancy vacations and feel like our lives are boring or we don’t have enough. That’s a horrible way to start our day. Think of it like this. What if you woke up and there were 100 people standing in your bedroom. Imagine they are all talking at the same time telling you about their perfect lives. I don’t know about you, but I would tell them to get the heck out. When you look at your social media first thing before getting out of bed, you’ve invited people to wake up with you (kind of creepy), some of whom you haven’t ever met or haven’t talked to in years.
Set yourself up for success
Write down your promise to yourself and keep it in plain sight.
You can also share your promise with someone and get them to make a promise to themselves too and check in with each other daily.
If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not about perfection. It’s about showing up for yourself. Building the skill of confidence is within your reach. Get out of your head and get into action.
When you realize that you won’t die from letting go of things you thought you needed, you will be able to pursue things that are healthier for you. As you learn to let go, your self-esteem and self-confidence will grow.
Letting go is so hard because we allow our default thoughts to keep us stuck. The more we can simply watch our thoughts come and go without attaching our identity to them, the easier letting go becomes.
Thoughts are nothing more than thoughts. What we decide to do with them is what can either make us or break us.
Letting go requires you to release all doubt, worry, and fear about a situation, person or outcome.
Letting go is about accepting what is happening right now and not worrying about what will come up tomorrow.
Learning to let go is not as difficult as you might think. But it does take some courage and determination. Here are 5 Steps you can take to start letting go.
1. Stop Blaming Others
We often blame others for our misfortunes. We feel we’re the victim of others’ injustices. While this may be the case, we cannot waste our lives waiting for other people to repair the harm they did to us. They may be unwilling, or even unable.
2. Make a Decision to Let Go
Letting go is a choice to decide that you will no longer ruminate on things that are out of your control, and focus on what you can control, instead.
It would help if you put that decision in writing. Write a statement like, “I have decided to let go of ________. I realize that holding on to this is preventing me from growing and being happy.” You can expand on this by listing more of the benefits you’ll receive, and how you look forward to a new chapter in your life.
Once you’ve written your decision statement, print it and post it some place where you’ll see it every day. Also, copy it by hand in a notebook regularly, such as once a day until you are certain you won’t go back. This will ingrain it in your subconscious mind, and the new behavior will begin to manifest itself naturally.
3. Trust That You’ll Be Okay
One of the reasons we hold on to things is that we think we need them to survive. Remember, letting go is the release of our mental and emotional fixation on something. It is not a physical letting go.
Trust that you’ll be okay. If you have to, lean on a friend. Your experience isn’t unique. Chances are that many other people have gone through the same experience, and they’ve survived. You don’t have to go through a detachment by yourself. You are not alone.
To truly let go and move on, sometimes you have to forgive people who aren’t even sorry. Sometimes you have to accept an apology you’ll never receive. That takes so much strength and courage and humility. While it may seem unfair and backwards, sometimes, that’s how the chips will fall.
There’s nothing worse than holding onto resentment about someone or something for years, while they happily move on with life. And the reality is, doing this only hurts you. The most important thing is that we also have to learn to forgive ourselves.
This can be done by writing a letter to yourself, replacing self-loathing with self-compassion, and deciding to make better choices next time.
5. Learn the Lesson and Move On
Life is a series of experiences that are meant to teach us important lessons. When we refuse to let go of something, it is because we refuse to see what life is trying to teach us. As a result, we feel stuck.
When you’re having trouble letting go of something, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this experience?” The answer may not be revealed to you immediately. But when it is, you’ll be able to let go, and move on with your life.
Everyday we have a choice to keep holding on just a little bit longer, or choose that today is the day we will finally let go.