Last week, during one of my presentations I stumbled amidst my speech. I feel I could have come up with a better solution to that.
What if my manager declines my upcoming promotion due to this rookie mistake?
What if I am fired?
For the past few days, I am stuck with these negative thoughts, it is constantly bugging me like those internet pop-ups. As soon as I shut one, the other one pops up and annoys me.
I get it, life is complex, problems are never-ending and our thoughts are continuous and annoying.
But if you do not know when to hit the pause button or the stop one, then my friend you are indulging in Overthinking.
Overthinking simply means thinking more than excessively about something.
Isn’t it similar to productive thinking?
The main difference between productive thinking and overthinking is their outcome.
Productive thinking involves thinking about a problem then channelizing your thoughts in such a way that you come up with a solution for the same.
Overthinking means going through the same problem again and again until you feel tired and see that you gained nothing out of it.
Your day begins with the same thought, you won’t realize when you finished drinking your coffee or reached the office.
At night, you are unable to sleep, for these thoughts keep going on in the back of your mind, like the idiot box played in the background.
But here’s a difference between the two:
You can switch on your television set when you wish to watch it and switch it off when you don’t.
But with Overthinking, you cannot seem to find the switch-off button anywhere.
So the question then lies,
How does one break away from this Habit of Overthinking?
Stop predicting what could have happened or what will happen.
We are often too engulfed with how poorly we performed in the past or are ruminating over the past mistake, this, in turn, makes us worry about our future decision as well.
Living in the moment and being conscious about the things that are happening around you, both inside yourself as well as your environment could help you with this habit.
Every time I feel myself getting carried away into thinking about the what if’s or maybes, I pause for a bit, and then ask myself,
What am I doing in the present?
As an example, currently I am typing this article, I am also having my coffee, which is too bitter for I forgot to add sugar.
Being present in the moment and reminding yourself about WHAT you are doing CURRENTLY, not only helps you get back in the present but also helps you focus on the things at hand rather than drifting apart somewhere else.
Do Things Mindfully
Being mindful requires more than being present in the moment, it requires giving all of your attention and energy to the task at hand.
Even a simple task such as stacking your files or driving your kid can turn out to be interesting if you do them mindfully.
For example, making coffee every day could be a novel experience.
But since we are used to it every day it seems too plain, nothing that gives us joy.
Here is what you can do the next time you make coffee.
Smell the rich aromatic coffee flavor when it’s getting grounded, listen to the crisp sound of those roasted coffee beans getting grounded, get the difference?
The trick is to trick your mind into believing that every small task you do in the entire day is adventurous and has something new to offer.
That way you will be more aware of the things you are doing and will happily look forward to doing them. Then doing them passively and ending up making mistakes.
Channel your inner dialogue
As Plato once said, “Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind.”
A negative internal thought is very dangerous, for it takes away your freedom to feel happy and content with what you have achieved.
Overthinking things not only makes you feel more pathetic about yourself, but you also make your inner dialogue more negative:
I think I will mess up all the future ones too.”
Try replacing it will a more affirmative, positive dialogue, like:
“I gave my best.
Maybe I was not successful this time, I am sure I will achieve better results in the future!”
It’s very easy to always see the worst out of any situation or mistake we did, how about seeing the positive in it?
I know it will be very difficult to break away from those lingering thoughts and I understand it will not happen in one day.
But Day one or one day?
It’s for you to decide.
If you are stuck with the same thought all the time and feel it getting a bit too much, changing your physical environment for some time could help.
Walking even for as little as 7 mins outside and being exposed to natural light and air, can help you gain a new perspective if you feel stuck.
Exercising is also a great way to burn the energy that you would otherwise use to ruminate over unnecessary things.
If you don’t like heavy bulky exercises, you could also just try some light stretches or take a walk around the house and practice something as simple as mindful belly breathing.
This way you will be able to throw those negative thoughts into your mental dustbin.
Lastly, Be more solution-focused.
At the base of our overthinking haven, lies the inability to achieve a few tasks in the past or the inability to do something. This gives rise to thinking about the problem more than actually paying attention to achieving the goal.
Thus, try breaking the big, scary-looking goal into smaller more achievable ones.
You can also make a list of things you wish to do on the day, or make a checklist of all the tasks that are required to complete the final one. That way you would know how close you are to achieving your goal.
Breaking down your big goals into smaller more achievable goals helps you not only achieve them all but also gives you a form of satisfaction that you have completed them in their totality.
We, as human beings, are guilty of indulging in Overthinking. But breaking away from the habit of overthinking is essential. It is difficult, I understand.
But if you believe that you can break away from this unhealthy habit, then, my friend, I am confident you shall.
Lastly, I leave you on a positive note,
You are not what your thoughts say, but rather what your actions do.