Most of us have experienced the helplessness to stop thinking about something, no matter how hard we try. We go over it repeatedly to the point of exhaustion, which prevents us from doing anything productive.
When I talk about overthinking, I am referring to instances when your brain is preoccupied with one specific thing, and you keep thinking about it, even though deep down you know you can put your thoughts to better use.
It does not have to do with major life decisions, such as changing careers, buying a new house, etc., as such decisions need to be made with deliberate thinking. Rather, it is the day-to-day things that people get stuck on, whether it is reviewing something you have already done, imagining a conversation that hasn’t even happened, or rewriting an email for the 10th time because it doesn’t sound perfect. Even though these things appear to be minor, for some of us, it can take a lot of effort to move past them.
Let’s take a look at individuals who are most likely to overthink things!
Individuals Who Are Prone To Overthink
Overthinkers have a typical behavioral style. They are typically described as analytical, methodical, critical thinkers, perfectionists, and someone who fears making mistakes. They are usually detailed oriented and tend to produce high-quality work. They derive their energy from thinking or planning, and being around big crowds of people can zap their energy and overwhelm them at times. They are usually quieter and more reserved as they prefer thinking quietly.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, take a look at the following tips from the book “Don’t Overthink It” by Anne Bogel to understand and overcome thinking!
Living Well Depends Upon Thinking Well – About The Things That Matter
Overthinking can take different forms. Sometimes it looks like worry, anxiety, or fretting about the small stuff. It translates into thoughts that are repetitive, unhealthy, and unhelpful. It is devoting disproportionate amounts of brain energy to insignificant things. It forces you to engage your brain and focus on insignificant thoughts rather than accomplishing meaningful tasks. It can be draining.
One study by a Yale professor focused on women’s mental health, and well-being showed that overthinking makes life harder, hurts our relationships, and may contribute to depression and anxiety.
No one wants to live in decision fatigue, but it is something that can creep up on you if you engage in overthinking. It is hard to escape because it is our learned way of processing information. It will require learning new strategies and new ways of thinking and reinforcing new habits.
Shift Your Mindset
If you want to stop overthinking, work on shifting your mindset. Instead of describing yourself as a chronic overthinker, start describing yourself as someone who:
- Doesn’t need to habitually second-guess oneself. Once a decision has been made, do not regret it or question it. Only focus on how to make that decision a reality. Take that energy used for second-guessing in the past and focus on what you will do to make your decision work. Odds are, even if it wasn’t the perfect decision, you could still make it work.
- Is learning how to filter out the unimportant, unhealthy, and unhelpful thoughts.If you are starting to ruminate bad thoughts, picture a stop sign. Stop those thoughts right away. Beating yourself up never accomplishes anything. Instead, focus only on positive thoughts.
- Is becoming equipped to gracefully pivot when things don’t go as planned. Realize that change is necessary to grow and is inevitable. Try to understand the benefits of change. Strive to be optimistic, confident, and enthusiastic during times of change and focus on the ultimate goal.
Shifting your mindset is the first step. Improvement won’t happen on its own, nor will it happen overnight, but it will happen. It will take intentionality and persistence.
Be Aware Of Analysis Paralysis
Analysis paralysis is one of the most common signs of overthinking. When you are in the midst of it, the problem is not the decision itself but the approach you take in reaching the decision. Instead of helping you solve the problem at hand, it causes you to be more indecisive than ever. Unless you recognize what’s happening and intervene, you will be lost in a loop of paralysis with no end in sight.
Common Signs Of Analysis Paralysis
- Repeatedly putting off decisions until later.
- Postponing a decision in hopes that a better option will present itself.
- Seeking more options when you already have enough.
- Constantly reviewing the information you’ve already gathered.
- Fearing you will make the wrong decision.
- Waiting so long to decide that you miss the opportunity to do so.
- Second-guessing a decision after it is made.
Causes Of Analysis Paralysis
- Intellectual Curiosity: When seeking a solution or starting a project, the analytical thinker sees infinite possibilities that others do not see. This can be a great strength if used appropriately, but it can also make things more complex than they have to be. This leads to information overload, which results in unending indecisiveness.
- Perfectionism: Striving to do high-quality work is a good thing but striving for perfection isn’t always practical or attainable. It often leads to procrastination and not finishing a project because it isn’t perfect. Underneath perfection is the fear of doing something wrong, which leads to missing deadlines or not even trying at all. Perfectionism can make us critical and uptight. Embrace mistakes as a way to grow and learn, and don’t beat yourself up.
To pull yourself out of the loop of analysis paralysis, you do not need more information. Instead, you need to get moving, take action, and do something. If that thought scares you, then take baby steps and start small. It will shift the momentum in the right direction and can get you unstuck.
When things happen beyond your control, change course and do it fast. These unplanned moments can often feel like something you need to survive. An unexpected event may throw you for a loop and make you feel lost. In times like these, push through it in a hurry. Just pick something that makes sense and run with it, and don’t second-guess your choice.
Define your perceptive. Instead of trying to choose the perfect plan, aim to choose a good one. This lowers our anxiety, which makes it easier to decide things. When you enter into the messy middle, you allow yourself to be creative. Lean in and expect good things.
Recognizing your patterns of overthinking and what prompts you to overthink is the key to overcome this habit. If you keep relying on overthinking to make decisions, you will continue to waste your time overthinking and feel anxious about your decisions’ outcomes. Once you become aware that you’re overthinking, that is when you can begin to change. It may feel like a battle at first, but it will get easier in time and become a habit.