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Overthinking is like sitting on a rollercoaster that goes in loops and never stops. As humans, we undoubtedly give the potential outcomes a lot of thought whenever there is a big decision to be made, for example buying a new home, career change, marriage, job perspectives, or buying essential utilities. A significant expenditure or life transition calls for thoughtful and careful consideration. By engaging in overthinking, one may try to manage a situation and feel more in control of what to do next.

However, there are instances when we may discover that our mind is replaying practically every notion. We may be obsessing over even little decisions and ruminating on "what-ifs" to the point where we're paralyzed by inaction. It's common to occasionally become overly "in our head." But persistent overthinking might begin to interfere with other elements of our daily life, such as sleep, job, relationships, health, or other activities.

So how do we know when we are overthinking?

Overthinking may start with a thought about work leading to worry about doing the job rightly which may go on to the concerns of money then moving on to constant worry about losing the job…and this goes on in cycles… and in no time one may find themselves ruminating or jumping through these thoughts- making them exhausted which may finally lead to no productive outcome.

It is interesting to know that there are usually two main types of overthinking:

  • Being caught in thoughts about the Past

  • Being caught in worries about the Future

Both of these stops a person from being mindful and aware of their Present. Feeling "trapped" or powerless to do anything are common challenges overthinkers face also making it difficult for them to focus on anything else or to push the thoughts from their head. For example, an individual who engages in overthinking may spend a lot of time making a decision buying a house which may lead to them missing a good deal, or a student ruminating about how they should study or do a particular project that makes them miss a deadline.

It is also important to remember that overthinking is not the same as feeling nervous or disturbed about a certain situation. Being preoccupied with a stressful circumstance in the short term may lead to action. For instance, being anxious before a job interview can motivate you to perform quickly. To ensure you are on time, you will put a lot of effort into preparing and being present beforehand to handle any uncertain situation rather than dwelling on the thought till the last minute.

Some ways to deal with overthinking:

  • Keep a track of what triggers the overthinking- In the long run making you take action when you anticipate the trigger or pattern

  • Find evidence for your thoughts or reason with them- To check if one's thoughts are helpful, reasonable, and logical

  • Seek help from friends/family or professional

  • Re-shift focus from process to the outcome- Asking yourself what will be the goal of engaging in action Vs engaging in thought

  • Keep the perspective of Problem-Solving

  • Engage in tasks that will keep your mind from thinking about these thoughts.

In Conclusion- The mind can be like a carnival, exciting and full of wonder, but overthinking can feel like being stuck on a treadmill that one can't escape. What if one was unable to escape from a carnival? Overthinking can sometimes be like this making one live in their brain and away from reality. To interrupt this overthinking cycle and emerge from the mind and into the actual world, one must first understand their mental habits.

Written By - Taehreem Ansari (Therapist at The Mood Space)

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