4 Practical Ways To Stop Overthinking

by Brianna Wiest

It's a wonder, when you really think about it, how civilized, "advanced" societies struggle as much as they do emotionally. Most of the life-or-death things that once threatened our bodies and minds and hearts are no longer issues, so survival is usually not a "maybe" thing in our day-to-day life. What that leaves to tackle is a profoundly deep well of mental and emotional understanding (or lack-there-of). We've been afforded the opportunity to really explore our mental and emotional selves, but rather than capitalize on that, we run from it, and hide further into our suffering than we do embrace understanding.

It's my belief that overthinking is one big deflection from actually doing that. In a sense, we decide to over-evaluate so we don't have to actually address the issue or come up with a tangible solution, or the solution seems elusive to us because we're so afraid of the potential consequences. Nobody is a natural "over-thinker," but most people are, in fact, natural "deflectors," in that they will do anything to avoid facing a problem if it makes them feel even a little uncomfortable. The point is: over-thinking is holding you back from living your life, whether it's by avoiding problems or, subsequently, not fully experiencing happiness. So here are 4 ways to get past it, once and for all:

Focus Your Energy And Spend Your Time Doing Things That Are Tangible

Overthinking is born of, and thrives in, the grey area. The what if. When you're overthinking, you're weighing possibilities you're not even sure exist. The antidote to most of our racing thoughts, the single most effective way to silence them, is to do something that requires your full attention — something practical and tangible that moves you in the direction you want to go. Let's say, for example, you're overthinking your almost-relationship, and you can't get over it no matter how hard you try. Stop trying to silence your thoughts on the matter, and do something to determine how feasible it is, or heal whatever prevents you from fully letting it go. These are abstract suggestions, of course, but create actionable ways to accomplish them: have an honest conversation, do some meditative writing, dig through some not-so-issues-of-the-past. Overthinking is how you keep yourself in limbo. Doing something about it is how you walk yourself out.

Remember This Phrase: "The Louder The Cry, The More Clear The Choice"

Over-thinking is synonymous with indecision, even though it may not seem to be that way on the surface. The root of every over-thought (if you will) is: "Or could this be another way?" It's what happens when you don't have to make a practical decision about something, but feel just as confused and torn about it. It's what happens, essentially, when fear fuels your drive to choose. You're stuck between what's right and what's convenient, what's comforting and what's honest, and so on. Recognize your overthinking as a cry and a desire to take action, or at least change some element of your life. Recognize that the more indecisive you are (and the more you're overthinking), the clearer the choice, and the simpler the reality. It's just one you don't want to fully face.

Figure Out What You're Trying To Avoid

What thought, what memory, what assumption you feel you have to make about yourself if you accept something to be true. Figure out what it is you're trying to avoid, and that will ease a lot of your over-thinking almost immediately. For example: if you're constantly over-thinking how a social interaction went, dig into why you're afraid that it didn't go well. Why is the potential of disapproval and unacceptance so horrifying to you? Is it a particular memory, or traumatic experience that you're trying to avoid? Is it that you don't feel you're giving yourself enough love and affection? Is it that your sense of self has always come from others, and you never learned otherwise? Figure out what it is you're running from so ardently. Over-thinking is what happens when it's too hard for your brain to accept one reality as "true."

Talk Your Way Out Of Your Mental Circles

When your thoughts are spiraling and you feel like you're not even making sense to yourself anymore, talk to someone else. Tell them that you just have to vent and literally gut your brain of everything you can think of. The more they sit and hold space for you and you just in-cohesively state everything that's on your mind, you will naturally begin to put pieces of the puzzle together, and you'll pick up on patterns and connections that you wouldn't have before. This is because when we sit down to talk to someone else, we tend to evaluate with more scrutiny how what we are saying sounds, appears and comes across to that person. In an effort to seem more "together," you'll naturally seek clarity, so as to communicate your point better, even if all of that is entirely subconscious.

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