Overthinking: Strength or weakness?The issue here is not that we overthink. It is whether or not we have control over these thoughts.
Let me ask you this, do you often replay past events in your head and wonder what you might have done differently? Do you worry excessively about the future, imagining all the possible scenarios and outcomes? Do you find it difficult to make decisions because of doubt and uncertainty?
If you answered yes, then you may be overthinking. Simply put, if you think about something too much or for too long, and it’s causing you to worry, fear, or have an excessive concern—like replaying past traumatic experiences in the head, trying to make sense of what happened or looking for ways to avoid similar situations in the future, that is called overthinking. An overthinker replays conversations in the head, looks for signs that you said something wrong or that others may have misunderstood, dwells on mistakes or worries excessively about a potential future.
Strangely enough, overthinking is actually necessary. The ability to think critically and consider multiple perspectives can be an advantage in certain situations, like problem-solving and decision-making. In moderation, thinking deeply and analysing situations can help us make better choices and adapt to the changing circumstances.
However, if we do it too much and on unnecessary things, it starts to become an issue. It is worth noting that excessive worrying and ruminating may have negative effects on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. Constantly thinking about these only causes us to focus on the problems, on what can go wrong or what should have been done, rather than seek out the solution and accept what has happened. Overthinking can tamper with our ability to think properly and trap us in a cycle of negative thoughts that interfere with our ability to cope with stressors.
In life, it can be necessary for us to re-evaluate and re-think an event to understand it completely and make the best possible decision. However, at times, all the answers we seek may not be provided to us, and sometimes, there will be no way to get a direct answer to our queries. We feel like things could have gone differently, and that is where overthinking kicks in.
Our brain tells us we must know or understand something, and it comes up with assumptions about how things could be. It gives us various scenarios of how things should have played out. These can be necessary, but at the same time, these thoughts can be so crippling that they may induce anxiety, panic attacks, or even depression and insomnia. All these thoughts about the past and future can actually cause us to feel hopeless and unhappy.
The reality is we all overthink, and that is unavoidable. But the issue here is not that we overthink. It is whether or not we have control over these thoughts. When one isn’t able to control their thoughts, they become overwhelmed and start having difficulty with their daily functioning.
There is no need to worry, though. There are some tips you can use to control your overthinking. And, like always, it begins with you.
The first step is realising that one is overthinking. You have to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions at the moment to be able to stop overthinking. Until one comes to realise that they may be overthinking, it will be difficult to stop. And the best thing to do after that is to focus on the present moment. We often become unaware of our surroundings and sensations when we constantly worry about something or someone. Deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques or meditation can help ground us in reality and focus on the present.
Our thoughts influence our emotions and behaviours. When we overthink something, our body feels lethargic, and we are in a low mood. Hence, paradoxically, the best thing to do at these moments to stop the thoughts can be as simple as going on a walk.
Most of these thoughts come when our mind isn’t preoccupied with something else. So, what can often work is occupying our mind with a task or activity so it doesn’t have the time to think about other things. And when things get too tough, there is no shame in asking for help from a counsellor or a therapist.
And in all honesty, acceptance is one of those key factors necessary when our thoughts make it difficult for us. Accepting what has happened is necessary to move forward and understand that you are still present here and what you have felt was in the past, and you don’t need to feel that way anymore. And along the way, as you come to terms with the past, knowing that the future is uncertain and that it’s okay is more important. Where and what you are doing is more important than a possible scenario down the line, isn’t it?