Overthinking occurs when you have a hard time turning off your mind. Worry and anxiety creep in. All those 'what ifs' capture your attention. You anticipate how things could go wrong, and how you could respond to unforeseen situations. Overthinking reflects you judge and self-criticize what you have already done and you justify why.
As you read this, you may know what its like to have thoughts run wild and wonder what to do about it. They compel you to re-examine actions you have already taken and those you wonder if you should. You may question whether you said the right thing, wonder how people interpreted your behaviour. You may keep going over and over decisions, questioning your own motives and what is best for you or others involved.
Consider your tendency to overthink based on how you reply to these questions:
In terms of dating: Why did I wear that outfit? Why was my make-up smudged? Why didn't he look my way? What must she think of me? What must his/ her friends think? Where can we go that would be impressive? How do I know if I said the wrong thing?
In terms of relationships: What will my spouse say when s/he finds out what I have done? What could my friends/ in-laws think of my choice? How can I be sure they will understand my point of view? Why are they not phoning/ including me?
In terms of body-image: Why does the mirror make me look so fat/ skinny? Where does all the acne come from? Who actually calls these marks beauty spots? How can wrinkles be taken as laugh lines? Why do I keep gaining weight when I exercise/ eat right/ am always on a diet? Whay am I never satisfied about how I look?
In terms of depression: How isolated did I feel? What could explain this prolonged loneliness? Why did s/he leave me?Why am I unmotivated? Why am I having trouble concentrating? Why do I feel restless and sluggish? How long does this post-natal depression thing last? Can how I feel be labelled depression?
In terms of work: Why aren't I capable of coping with my job/ schedule and family responsibilities? Why am I not living up to expectations? When will I pull myself together? Why am I so hard on myself? Why can't I get over it? When should I go back to work? Why are they asking me to rethink my role as a stay-at home parent?
As you realize you are overthinking, notice the messages about self-worth, self-love and acceptance that speak to you. Notice whether you are allowing fear and ego to control you. Notice your word choices and how they may disempower you. You actually have choices about which words to use and which thoughts to think.
As an exercise to see what overthinking is inviting you to see about yourself, write 5 phrases relevant to your situation. What do you over-analyze? Write down the feelings that stand out about each phrase (i.e. fear, self-doubt, etc.) Notice if they feel positive or negative. Now, rather than assume something negative happened or will, assume positive things. Know how you think is shaped by your feelings and whether you focus on the future. Fear only exists there. It cannot exist in the present moment.
As you recognize you tend to over analyze people and situations, this is inviting you to step back and learn about yourself. To notice overthinking acknowledges discomfort about something inside. As you look deeper to discover why, you can tailor your strategies to curtail or stop it. Why do you do the things you do? Maybe some of these resonate with you? If not, reflect on other possible reasons. Jot those down and reflect.
a) Indecisiveness/ low self-confidence (unsure what you want)
b) Strong sense of entitlement (ego success-driven)
c) Never satisfied/ perfectionistic
d) Seek approval & acceptance / fear disapproval & rejection
e) Diagnosed with psychological/ psychiatric illness
What if every reason you could possibly give to explain why you over-analyze brings you back to a plea for love? What if everything invites you to be more aware of how you can love Self and others unconditionally? One perspective is every experience invites you to love yourself more and see yourself as you really are. To overthink suggests you choose to focus on fear rather than love, and you can shift attention anytime.
"We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It`s a death trap." -Anthony Hopkins