Tired of overthinking but not sure how to stop?
You know how it is…you know you need to make a decision and you just can’t decide.
It’s like you almost get analysis paralysis with all of the different options.
You don’t want to make the wrong one.
Or you do decide, but then you’re questioning if you made the right decision, so you spend more time thinking about the decision that you’ve already made.
Or maybe something happened and you just can’t stop thinking about it.
You’re stuck dwelling on the past or worried about the future.
Overthinking is human.
Truth be told, I am in recovery of being a classic over thinker.
I know this – it is a behavior that isn’t serving you and can even be negatively impacting your health.
Overthinking relationships, career choices, who you are, what you can have in your life, what you did or didn’t do… it’s not helping you.
The problem with overthinking is the more you overthink, the more you overthink.
So let’s make it easy – in this episode of the podcast I am going to break down what overthinking is, why it’s a problem (and you may not realize just how much it is), and how to overcome it.
So you can break the cycle and become a master at living in the moment and quick decisions.
Tune in to episode 51 now.
What You’ll Learn
How overthinking comes up related to the past, present and future
The effects of a negative thought pattern, like overthinking
The connection between overthinking, stress and even physical health
How overthinking stops you from living how you want to
3 strategies to stop overthinking and start taking action
Featured in This Episode
Are you questioning if you are in the right career? Take the quiz.
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. Now, you know when you need to make a decision and you just can’t decide, it’s like you almost get analysis paralysis with all of the different options. You don’t want to make the wrong one. Or you do decide, but then you’re questioning if you made the right decision, so you spend more time thinking about the decision that you’ve already made. So today, I want to talk about this. Overthinking. Not just making decisions, but how to stop overthinking and worrying about things.
Truth be told, I’m way better at this than I used to be. I used to be in your boat, too, but I still have to snap myself out of it sometimes if I find myself rethinking things that I already decided. According to Oliver Collins, the author of the book titled Overthinking, overthinking is a disease of the mind. Wow. Now that sounds serious.
The thought behind this is, a little pun there, is that when you are stuck in a cycle of overthinking, you are incapable of taking action. You also get so consumed with the pros and cons and analysis that to your brain, there is no right decision, so you just stay stuck. It can take over your whole mind because you start to dwell. And then what could happen with each decision or action you take, it’s bigger and bigger and the consequences get worse.
Something simple, like changing careers leads you down a path of you’re going to be homeless and starve and out on the street. Now I laugh at this real fear because it is real and it is where our brains go to sometimes. It becomes that dire. One wrong step and you’re out on the streets. But let’s break that down. It actually is incredibly unlikely, if not impossible.
A lot has to happen between one decision and out on the streets. There are a lot of opportunities to redirect and prevent such a dire outcome, but not to our brains. Our brains become convinced. Also, the problem with overthinking is the more you overthink, the more you overthink. So you have to learn to practice making decisions and being uncomfortable to get better.
Before going further, let’s define what overthinking is. For thoughts to be overthinking, they need to be simply dwelling on the problem and not finding a solution. You’re not focused on getting yourself to action. You’re simply stuck dwelling on the options or dwelling on something that happened or didn’t happen. Now there are a few ways that overthinking can come up.
You could be overthinking about the past. I see this a lot, regretting decisions made. But see, there is no perfect roadmap for life. You try things and make the best decision for you at that time. If you had a red flag you didn’t listen to and it was right, then you learn from that and don’t make that mistake again.
That is what life is. There is no way to plan a perfect life. So overthinking about the past prevents you from moving forward. Instead of focusing on your future and what you want to create, you rob yourself of that joy because you are too busy beating yourself up for something that happened before. Or you become scared to make changes you want to make because you made a decision in the past that didn’t work out and you then fear you can have a problem making even good decisions.
But what is that, bar? Okay, seriously, I want you to think about that. Do you really expect to always make the perfect decision in every situation? Because that isn’t life. We are humans.
There are good and bad experiences, and that is what makes life what it is. If it was happy and perfect, we’d be Teletubbies. Do you want to be a Teletubby? I don’t want to be a Teletubbie. We want that spectrum that life offers, we want to grow and challenge ourselves.
We want to persevere and achieve our goals. So overthinking about the past is just keeping you there in the past. You’re not living in the present. When you spend time worrying about the past or the future, for that matter, you could be overthinking about the future, which is usually focused on uncertainty, things that you cannot control and what could happen. The key with future thinking is to focus on what you can do today to get the results you want for the future, not dwell on parts of the future that you cannot control.
For example, if your child will get in a car accident next month, that’s something you worry about. Instead, how can you prepare your child to be safe and reduce the chances of the car accident? You want to get yourself an action into problem solving? Or if you’re overthinking about your health, like, let’s face it, cancer is freaking scary. My grandma, who I was close with, was healthy her whole life.
And at 71, she was diagnosed with ALS, and from the time she showed a symptom to the time she passed away was six months. When things like that happen, it’s normal to question things and to worry, to feel like these things are not in your control and the rug is going to be pulled out from underneath you at any time. But instead of worrying about something in the future that may or may not happen, instead what can you do today? How can you live your life to the fullest in this moment?
How can you take care of yourself to reduce your worry. For example, if I’m not as fit as I like, not fueling my body with nutritious foods, I could worry more because I know that I’m not taking good care of myself. And if I’m taking good care of myself, I worry less. You want to be in action, not just overthinking. Now, overthinking about the present is also super common.
This is where you’re faced with a challenge or problem and you feel stuck and don’t know what to do. This can actually happen when it comes to career choices. Will this other choice be better? Will you like it? What if you don’t like it?
Even with working with a coach, it can be will they help me? What if I don’t like it? What if it doesn’t work for me? But all of these thoughts, especially when you dwell on them, are really just keeping you stuck and not in action because you won’t know until you try.
Some of this comes down to trusting yourself to make a decision and to realize that there are no right and wrong decisions. They are just decisions and to trust yourself that whatever the outcome is, you can handle it. Trust yourself that you can make anything work. Trust yourself that you can always pivot. Overthinking can take a huge toll on your energy, on your productivity, and on the results that you achieve in your life. This is why it’s so bad for us and considered a serious problem.
Think back to when you first remember overthinking things. Something that I remember is having a crush. Now you don’t want to tell the person you like them because you overthink about it. If they would like you back? What will they say? Would you get teased and so on?
I know this was a super common conversation among me and my girlfriends at the time. But not speaking up, not taking action because of overthinking could rob you of a great relationship. Or has there been a job you were interested in? But you didn’t apply for it or reach out to a contact you had because you overthought what they would think if you were really a good fit, if you had the qualifications, if the company would be any better, all of those things. Or maybe you take it further and question, how would you make time for an interview?
What if you get the job and now is not a good time to leave?
Or what would it mean for your family? So then you didn’t actually take the action because you were so consumed with overthinking things that you just stuck and talked yourself out of it. Then you probably didn’t feel good about yourself. And then the next time an opportunity comes up, you may do the same thing because that is what your brain knows is your routine. And then you question why you keep doing it.
But that is the cycle. So to break this, you just need to take some action. You practice understanding that one small step isn’t going to be detrimental. You can trust yourself to handle it. You have a lot of little decisions from applying to taking a job offer, if you even get one. There could also be some self sabotaging behavior here. Maybe you’re afraid you won’t get it, and then that will somehow validate some negative thoughts you have about yourself. But this is such a disservice to yourself. There is nothing you can’t come back from. And know this – you can always create what you have right now because you know how. You’ve done it, so you can always come back here.
You can always create the same type of job, home, relationship, all of it. So there’s nothing that you can do that is going to be impossible to come back from. So don’t let that be a reason you overthink yourself into not taking action. Overthinking is a negative thought pattern. So let’s talk about the effects of a negative thought pattern as studied by the School of Psychology, and I believe this one was in the University of China, found that stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts are linked.
According to the Stress and Coping Theory, emotions like anger and shame come from stress and stress is coming from negative thoughts. Now, stress is an essential feeling for survival. It helps us when a bear is chasing us down the road or you need to react to something quickly because of danger. Stress is a problem when you’re feeling stress as a response to overthinking.
Chronic stress leads to physical health symptoms as well. Think of how this could have held you back. If you have trust issues in relationships or fear of abandonment, you may overthink what could happen and cause yourself stress, which stresses the relationship and can create a self sabotage cycle. Overthinking relationships, career choices, who you are, what you can have in your life, it’s not helping you. So let’s agree that overthinking isn’t great for you and it has negative effects on your life.
Overthinking just forces you to see life through a filter that doesn’t represent reality, your capabilities, or your potential. It literally stops you from living how you want to. The next natural question is, how do you stop? How do you stop overthinking? So I’m going to share three strategies with you.
Number one, be as present as possible, whether that means mindfulness practice, meditation or whatever works for you to stay present in the moment. Also, get enough rest, sleep and regular exercise. This will help. This will eliminate some of the focus on your past and future overthinking.
And here are some questions you can ask: What can you do today? What if you only had this one day? How would you think about this? What problem is in front of you and what do you want to do about it? Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen? How would you handle the worst and then decide what to do?
Number two, look at your environment. Look at who you are spending time with. Are they people who lift you up or people who dwell in the negative? What is your physical environment like?
Is it cluttered like your mind can be? Are you surrounded by things that bring you joy? Number three, stop trying to be perfect. A lot of times, it is our perfectionism that is keeping us from making a decision or dwelling and overthinking.
What if you just removed that perfection is possible, that there is no perfect and nothing you can do is perfect? I know. Cringe, seriously, though, what would you do if there was no perfect answer? Alright, there you have, it your three strategies. And I want you to know that overthinking is human. Nothing has gone wrong, but it is a behavior that isn’t serving you and can even be negatively impacting your health.
So to stop, try these three things, you may need one, or you may need all three. And if you make a mistake, if you find yourself overthinking, that’s okay. This is going to take some practice, but don’t give up. The more you try, the less you’ll overthink. The next time you find yourself in a cycle of overthinking, and you stop yourself that’s one less time, which is helping you take action and reduce your stress.
And that compounds with each time. You’ve got this. I will talk to you next week.
Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality.
I will be by your side the entire way.