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Stuck In Your Head? How To Stop Overthinking

Woman with hand on her chin overthinking

Are you a perfectionist? Striving for perfection is an admirable thing, but you need to understand that what you are striving for is unattainable. Disappointment will follow you more often than you would like. Being flexible in your thinking is key! Not setting your plans in stone and holding fast to them when things are not going according to plan, will avoid the feeling of being repeatedly disappointed.

While overthinking situations from time to time is common, your perfectionism will lead you to be an overthinker. People who are plagued with a constant barrage of thoughts, second-guessing every decision they make, may even imagine disastrous outcomes throughout the day, every day. Overthinkers may even conjure up negative images of the outcome they create. Negative outlook hurts your problem-solving abilities. Thinking too much will hinder you from getting anything done. As your thinking spirals downward so does your mood.

Overthinking involves ruminating and incessant worry, two very destructive thought patterns. When you are ruminating you are dwelling on the past.

Ruminating thoughts, sound like…

“ I should have stayed at my last job. I would be happier than I am now.”

Persistent worrying is predictive of the future and includes negative and even catastrophic thoughts and sounds like…

“Everyone else will get promoted before I do.”

“I’m going to embarrass myself at the meeting when I give my presentation because I will forget everything.”

With practice you can train your brain to think differently. Here are six ways to break the cycle and stop overthinking that leads to perfectionism:

1. Pay Attention to Your Thought Life

Notice how you think if you are unaware of your unhelpful thought pattern. Acknowledge when you are playing things over and over in your head and worrying about things that are out of your control. Thoughts are helpful only when it leads to ‘positive’ actions.

2. Focus On Problem Solving

Searching for a solution is more productive than dwelling on the problem. Challenge yourself to come up with 5 solutions to solve the problem. If it is something out of your control, think about strategizing for ways to cope with the problem. Whether you realize it or not, you have more control of yourself, over your attitude and effort.

3. Challenge Your Thoughts

Acknowledge that your thoughts are exaggerated. Step back from your emotions because they will interfere with your ability to see things objectively. Check out the evidence, determine if it is true. What evidence do you have that it isn’t true?

4. Take Time to Reflect

A brief reflection can be helpful if you are thinking about how things can be done differently the next time. Carve out “worry time” for yourself. Set 20 minutes in your day to think, let yourself worry, ruminate, or ponder over whatever you want. When the time is up move on to something else and only use the “worry time” to address issues in your mind.

5. Use Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you to be aware of the here and now. While living in the present, rehashing yesterday and worrying about tomorrow does not help your today. The more you practice mindfulness the easier it will become. There are many resources that can teach you mindfulness skills.

6. Change The Station

Just telling yourself to stop thinking about something will not work. Thoughts are more likely to keep popping into your awareness. Change the station in your brain by changing your activity. Engaging in conversation, exercise, work on a project, or talking to someone will help to distract your thoughts and end the negative thought path you are walking in your mind.
After a while, building healthier mental habits will build your mental muscle to increase your positive mental strength.