Overthinking it?

Do you have a tendency to overthink things? Read this blog series if you want to learn how to stop overthinking.

This post will tell you what overthinking is and why we overthink. Next up in the series, we will cover what you can do about the habit so you’re not left feeling mentally exhausted from chronic indecision paralysis with a side of low mood & anxiety. Learn to be a more fluid & secure decision maker so you can get back to using your brain for more productive & satisfying tasks, like finding chocolate.

What is overthinking? 

Overthinking is, unsurprisingly, thinking too hard or too long about a problem or issue without making any further progress in solving the problem or resolving the issue. It’s a lot of mental action with no outcome or reward. Like a stationary exercise bike. Lots of work, lots of energy expended, sweat & grit, but sadly no forward progress.

Why do we overthink?

Overthinking usually happens when the problem or issue isn’t fully clear to us. Maybe we don’t know what we want and become occupied thinking about all the possibilities. Maybe there isn’t a clear answer. Maybe there isn’t a solution that’s ideal, or right, or correct, or perfect. Maybe some part of us can’t accept the solution or action required to fix the problem. Maybe we are in denial about the problem. Maybe we don’t have enough information to decide quickly. Maybe the problem or the solution is totally out of our hands or control. Maybe we are ambivalent about what action to take. So many good reasons.

We tend to get hung up overthinking when we are looking to feel better about moving forward, but often, the solutions we can think of to solve the problem also may make us feel bad or lead to a less than desirable outcome. So we try to avoid feeling that yucky stressful tense feeling with more thinking. Surely a better solution exists, we say to ourselves, and off we go back on our stationary thinking bikes again. We try to think ourselves out of a problem that can’t be solved with more thinking. It’s a vicious cycle, pun intended.

Chances are, if you’ve done some overthinking, you may have felt really tired, mentally exhausted, stressed, anxious, worried, frazzled and your mood may have dipped. You might felt trapped, sad, frustrated or angry by your predicament. But you are not alone.

Overthinking is incredibly common & while it is not a symptom of a mental health disorder per se, it tends to happen more often to people who are struggling with their mental health. Why? Because when we experience overwhelm, prolonged stress, or mental health events such intense anxiety or a depressive episode, our emotional & mental batteries run low. So we don’t think as effectively or quickly, which means solving everyday problems is harder and takes longer. It uses more mental energy relative to supply. So those good solutions may seem less obvious, more unclear and we are less decisive because of it. Plus other issues like sleep deprivation, feeling unwell, relationship stress, all add to the strain.

Next time you’re prone to overthinking, as yourself these questions:

  1. What is the problem I’m trying to solve by overthinking?
  2. Can I solve this problem right now?
  3. Is there an underlying issue? For example, something that is making this problem especially difficult, triggering, upsetting, or making me want to react differently?
  4. What is the ideal solution?
  5. What are the two best solutions available to me now? 
  6. Will continuing to think help me right now? 
  7. Will pausing and waiting for more information, input, or cooling off help me in any way?
  8. Why do I feel compelled to find a different solution? 

Next up on the blog are tips to help you break the habit of overthinking so you can get back to living a life that makes you happy & satisfied. I’m off to get some chocolate now too 🙂

Hang in there,

Dr M

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