Do you have the tendency to overthink or overanalyze things? Think about a time you gave an important presentation, had a conversation with someone you wanted to impress, or went to a party and talked to people you had never met before. When the presentation is over, the conversation ends, and the party is over, what did you find yourself thinking about? Many people might find themselves mulling over the events and conversations in their mind. They might be thinking about the things shared but many people spend time picking apart the interactions and responses. That is not uncommon for people to do, and there is a chance you probably can relate to it on some level. Overthinking is similar to those experiences but it can take rumination to a whole different level. In worst case scenarios, it can make it difficult for people to make decisions, focus on other important things, and move forward in their life. It can be helpful to dissect certain moments from the past to learn how to improve or to make sense of it. It can be helpful to analyze future decisions and be wise and discerning. However, overthinking can be paralyzing at times and make life more difficult. Here are some ways to help you stop overthinking and start living more freely:
Practice mindfulness. In order to stop overthinking, you must recognize what is happening. Being mindful helps you become aware and gain insight into what you are thinking and feeling in the present moment. In order to intervene for yourself, you must first be aware of what is happening. Take time out of your day to listen to yourself and what is going on in your inner world.
Identify and address the real problem. Practicing mindfulness will give you awareness and insight into potential problems causing you to overthink. A common issue with overthinking is anxiety. Most people overthink because they are anxious about the outcome, the future, or what others are thinking. Anxiety can cause people to overthink. By addressing the real issue like anxiety, it can make people less likely to overthink and analyze everything.
Work on your self-confidence. Overthinking can come from a place of uncertainty. It can involve being uncertain about what is out of your control, but it also can come from being uncertain of yourself. When you are confident in your own abilities, it makes it easier to not ruminate on things like past presentations or conversations. Confidence in yourself can also help you feel courage and assurance moving forward.
Take small steps forward. It can be easy to overthink future endeavors. When looking at everything as a whole, it can be overwhelming. There can be so much to consider making it easier to overthink. Break up the magnitude of a task into smaller more manageable steps. One of the keys to stop overthinking is to just start doing. Take those steps forward and focus on the present rather than overthinking and not allowing yourself to move forward.
Find accountability. In general, it can be difficult to notice negative patterns and make positive changes in your life. It is important to have people who know you well and are willing be a part of your encouragement. They can lovingly draw attention to moments when you are overthinking. They can also reinforce the moments when you push past overthinking and move forward.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.