Breaking out of the overthinking cycle

I don’t know about you, but I’m a classic overthinker. And, if anything, it’s got worse over lockdown. That’s why I wanted to dedicate today’s post to it in the hopes that I – and you – can break out of the cycle.

what is overthinking?

If you’re lucky enough to not be an overthinker, then you might be wondering what exactly overthinking is. Well, let me tell you. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: thinking too much. But it’s also more than that. It involves thinking about something, replaying scenarios and conversations so much, that you fall into a rabbit hole that goes deeper and deeper. There is, in fact, no end to the overthinking rabbit hole – and it can be impossible to find your way out, or to distinguish between truth and paranoia.

analysing rather than acting

As a result, overthinking will lead to ceaseless analysis of past conversations/ situations/ comments and it will prevent you from taking action to remedy or address it. Your mind creates somewhat of a short circuit and it can be really hard to break out of it. But, rather than being helpful, overthinking can trigger or perpetuate low moods or even depressive episodes. It’s really not a positive habit and I think we could all benefit from stopping it.

recognising it

The first step to stop overthinking is to recognise when you are doing it. It’s so easy to spend hours after something happens analysing it and how you could have reacted differently – but it’s also kind of useless. By recognising that you are overthinking, you’re one step closer to pulling yourself out of that rabbit hole.

Get out of your head

The next thing to do after recognising that you’re stuck in an overthinking cycle is to try to get out of your head, as I like to call it. Going for a walk or a run, doing some yoga or meditating, writing in your journal, reading your book… whatever floats your boat, as long as it distracts you from your repetitive thought cycle, allowing you to break out of it. It can be a bit jarring, but it’s also necessary and will hopefully prevent you from spiralling back into overthinking.

Be held accountable

If you’re not great at recognising overthinking in yourself, or breaking out of the thought pattern, it can be helpful to ask your friends to do so for you. I have a friend who is an even worse overthinker than I am and often I’ll just say to her: “Prue, you’re overthinking this.” And then she’ll realise it’s true and will generally snap out of it.

Accept the past

I think acceptance is really important to moving on. You need to accept the past and acknowledge that you can’t change what has happened. In turn, it will allow you to learn from the experience/ whatever it is you’re overthinking and take actionable steps to prevent it from happening again OR to confront it full in the face. It really depends on what it is that you’re overthinking. Just know that you can’t change what has already occurred – but you can change how you react or act in the future.

acknowledge that you can’t control everything

A lot of overthinking comes from a fear of future uncertainty; in analysing the minutiae of what’s happened in the past, overthinkers hope to prevent it from happening again. But, unfortunately, we can neither predict nor control the future. Uncertainty is inevitable, and rather than trying to control everything, we have to focus on what we can control (our actions and responses) and let go of what we can’t control (everything else). Trust me, you’ll be a lot happier once you stop attempting to micro manage everyone and everything. The people around you will be happier too! And maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to prevent what you fear from happening.

You’re not that relevent

Finally, something that I’ve found quite liberating is the realisation that I’m really not that relevant. You can read so much into what people say or write – especially with long distance friendships and relationships – but, most of the time, it has nothing to do with you. If someone’s a bit off with me, I’ll automatically assume I’ve done something wrong. When, in reality, it has nothing to do with me. I’m not the centre of everyone’s lives, so most of the time their problems will have nothing to do with me. Bear that in mind next time you assume something based on nothing.

Anyway, I hope this short post on overthinking was helpful or interesting to some of you! I’m definitely working on this too and there’s no overnight fix, but we’ll get there.

Emma ♥♥