We have all been there: your friend made a harmless comment, you can’t stop thinking about what they said, until eventually you have convinced yourself that they hate you and you should move to Scotland immediately. That’s what we call “overthinking”.
Now, you can’t stop yourself thinking, you need to think to live. The problem starts when you think about something too much. What happens is you think about something so much that you start believing something is true, when it is the furthest thing from the truth. So, when you finally confront your friend, it turns out that don’t hate you and they certainly don’t want you to move to Scotland. (It’s far too cold anyway). In fact, they really like you, and want you to stay together forever.
In other words, you know you are overthinking when you get really stressed about the thought of something and then later realise “oh I really didn’t need to get stressed about that”.
Okay, so how do we stop overthinking? Well, firstly you must understand that overthinking is a habit; it’s a habit your brain uses to help you in certain situations. The problem is your brain sometimes gets it wrong – it triggers the habit of overthinking in situations when it’s not helpful at all. (Like when your crush doesn’t respond in 4 seconds).
The good news is you can change your brain’s habits. This is what you need to do:
Label your triggers. Start thinking about what makes you overthink. In other words, when does your brain tell you overthink? Is it when someone is cold to you? Or is it when you think about your future. When you notice yourself starting overthink, label it. Say to yourself “Oh my brain is wanting to overthink”. You can label it as “chatter”, “spinning”, “spiralling”, whatever you want. Just give your habit a name.
Next, blame your brain. Once you have noticed you are overthinking, remember it just your brain trying help you. Tell yourself “Hey, my brain thinks I need to overthink about this right now, but I don’t because it is not going to help me.” You brain is just acting out of habit, and one that is unhelpful.
Focus on something else. When you get stressed it’s easy to indulge your thoughts. “Oh my god, why haven’t they responded. They must not like me, because I said that thing the other day”. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, focus on something else that keeps your occupied. Something you enjoy. Could be as simple as conversation with a friend. Whatever you do, don’t try and push the stressful feeling down; sit with the stress, but focus your attention on something else.
Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s easy to feel like “Ah I am broken, I can’t stop overthinking everything”, but remember it’s just your brain incorrectly trying to help you. Your brain is just doing its thing. It has got nothing to with you. You’re still great, don’t worry.
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