You know how it goes, there's a text message, a smirk or a flat out rejection in some aspect of your social or work life that has you up at night. Or perhaps you're at a new job and are stuck in a cycle of over-analyzing everything you do, wanting to be perfect; you're scared to death you'll get sacked and be back on the job market. These fears are all too common, especially in our world of pervasive social media that has us comparing ourselves to every Tom, Dick and Jane out there. Is there a way to stop? Are you just a hopeless over-analyzer? Of course not!
Start on a new path that has you moving on from all those unnecessary thought loops in your brain. Be cool-as-a-cucumber in your stickier situations. This is the time to put a stop to some of your more detrimental thought processes and move on to your best life ever. Ready? Read the eight realizations listed below (and keep them nearby in a printout), to keep you on track and off the "obsessing" roller coaster ride.
Realize It's Just a Habit
In this article for Psychology Today, UCLA Psychologist Rebecca Gladding, M. D, explains that our habits become hardwired into our brains, one reason why we can't always trust our emotional reactions to situations. Many adults who are over-thinkers are now just functioning off a repetitive habit started some point earlier in life. But like bad posture, this is a habit that can be rectified with a bit of effort. This is important to understand, because changing your patterns starts with believing you can. And trust us, you can!
Talk to Yourself
Mike Torres is a blogger and business leader who writes in an article for Refocuser that talking to yourself is one way to combat overthinking. But what should you say? Stop when you realize you're in one of those obsessive loops. Tell yourself you've been down this path before and it's ineffectual. This isn't helping, ask yourself what would be helpful to do or think in this particular situation. This is your new habit and it needs to be repeated for it to take hold. Your brain will eventually turn to problem solving rather than self-focused doubt and anxiety. So look forward to more productivity. You'll stop fooling yourself into believing your anxiety is real and you'll be really fixing your problems. Awesome.
Set a Limit
In Dale Carnegie's book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, he gives tons of fantastic advice on methods we can use to let go of our worries and fears. He advocates putting a "stop-loss" on whatever it is that's getting you down. Ultimately, you control what's on your mind. If you can set a limit to whatever you're overthinking about, you're on the path to ridding yourself of it. Tell yourself that next week on Tuesday, you're going to have this issue resolved. And then move on to the next realization in this list.
Make an Action Plan and Follow Up Immediately
How do you make your overthinking limit stick? Sit down and make an action plan. Carnegie suggests identifying your problem realistically, accept the possibility of the worst-case scenario, then come up with your next actions to fix or avoid that worst case. This exercise usually makes us realize that should the worst case happen, we'd still be alive, which helps to alleviate anxiety, too. He then advises working on that next action as soon as possible. This gives us a sense of control, the lack of which often leads to our overthinking in the first place.
Perfection is Impossible
You've heard it before…you'll hear it again. Perfection just isn't possible. All you can do is your best and it's all anyone can do. Our most loved, most famous, most revered current and historical figures have all made mistakes. If they did, you will too. And it's okay! Understand it once and for all. Making an error doesn't separate you from the rest of humanity as less-than; it reaffirms we're all in it together, just doing our best.
Sometimes overthinking can creep up on us in our calmer moments. If all else fails, get your butt up and do something! A physical activity that engages your brain like playing an instrument or reaching an exercise goal can snap your brain out of overthinking, so make it part of your routine.
You know that saying, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself? For whatever reasons, how we feel about ourselves is inextricably tied to how we feel about others. Some of our overthinking is just inward gossip, judging ourselves too harshly as we imagine others are judging us. As we have often judged. So ease up on yourself, you'll ease up on others, and you'll be less inclined to overthink about what others are saying or thinking about you. This goes back to the "we all make mistakes and it's okay" thing. Give yourself permission to error. Forgive yourself.
Find Your Center
Rebecca Gladding also points out in her article that when people are in line with their true self, that is they're going after what they want personally in life, they are much less self-critical or critical of others. Obsessive overthinking stops when you're happy and embracing yourself as an individual rather than comparing yourself constantly to someone else. SO sit down and start thinking about what you really want out of life. What lifestyle suits you best. What community or type of friends. And start pursuing it, today! Tweet some people you admire, send them a message on Facebook. Ask someone who's reached success you'd like to have what their story is. Stay true to your center.