photo collage sketch of stressed woman in office with headache and burnout from overthinking.

Here’s the One Reason You’re Overthinking

If overthinking were an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal by now (or several). If you’re emphatically nodding your head right now, you’re probably familiar with the vicious cycle of overthinking.

It can feel like doing acrobatics in quicksand, or rollerblading in circles. As fun as that sounds, I’ve created a roadmap for breaking that cycle.

Hopefully, my story will help you too.

The Source of Overthinking: Fear

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After a lot of journaling and introspection, I realized that overthinking, for me, is linked with anxiety and fear. It all boils down to fear when you think about it, right?

If the person you’re dating doesn’t reply to a message after a while, you start overthinking. Thirty minutes into an exciting road trip and anxiety kicks in whether you locked the door or not? Cue overthinking.

When fear creeps in, overthinking happens as a defense mechanism of the mind, to protect us. But what’s the point of it?

The Point of Overthinking: Control

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The purpose of overthinking as a coping mechanism is none other than… control. When situations have made me feel anxious, out of control, and consequently unsafe, it makes sense to my mind that reclaiming control is the way to feel safe again.

Does it actually give me control?

No, only the illusion of it, which brings me to the second point of overthinking.

Second Point of Overthinking: Avoiding Negative Feelings

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Another purpose of overthinking is to distract myself from negative feelings. By overthinking, I conveniently avoid actually feeling things, or confronting them. It’s a way to disconnect from the body, by being hyper-active in my thoughts.

But I realized avoidance isn’t the solution, either. It just temporarily distracts me from whatever is weighing down on me. So what helps?

Click Pause on the Cycle

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Becoming aware of my own patterns and habits usually helps me break the cycle. Simply stepping back from the situation and asking myself, “Why am I overthinking? Why am I feeling this way? What’s really going on here?”.

But it’s important to do this step in a gentle and attentive way, and not get trapped in it – otherwise you’ll just continue being stuck in the “oops, overthought this again” loop.

Feel the Feelings

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It’s only human to avoid pain. It’s a bit like stepping into a cold shower, or getting on the treadmill after a long break and your muscles are screaming in resistance. It’s uncomfortable, but often necessary.

What I like to do is create a safe space for myself and ease into it. Do a meditation, write in my diary, and let myself feel it.

Yes, that thing bothered me, and what of it? It’s in the past. Can I change it? Yes? Then do it. No? Then let it go, because ruminating over it won't change anything.

Learn to Trust and Let Go

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Speaking of letting go, it’s a learning process. The way I’ve personally learned to frame this step is by emotionally detaching from the outcome of the situation, and trusting the universe. I do believe that if something is meant for me, it will find me.

I don’t have to jump through hoops and demonstrate the impossible in order to make something happen. That applies to relationships, jobs, or anything else.

Yes, hard work and effort is essential. But if something is not meant for me, no amount of overthinking or forcing things will change that fact.

Out of the Past, Into the Present

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Finding safety in mindfulness is a gentle way to stop overthinking. This means letting the past of the past, and bringing my attention to the present. I like doing this by practicing mindfulness: savoring a cup of coffee, enjoying a yoga session in silence as I focus over my breath, soaking in the sunlight while on a picnic.

It’s about being fully present in the here and now. By reminding ourselves of this, we can immediately feel more safe and present in our bodies, and as a consequence, it alleviates anxiety or overthinking as well.

Get out of Your Head, Into Your Body

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If you’re a more physically active person, here’s one for you. My favorite way to stop overthinking… is going to the gym.

Whether it’s an hour of cardio, weightlifting or yoga, it doesn’t matter – the physical activity, the breathing exercises, the boost of endorphins and testosterone works like a magical cure to pull me out of my tangled thoughts back into my body.

Ok, And?

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Here’s a fun and perspective-shifting technique that works for me. When confronted with a situation that induces a lot of anxiety, I just ask myself “Ok, and?”. I remember the curious fact that we’re 8 billion people trudging about our daily lives on a floating rock drifting through space in the vastness of the universe.

Made a mistake at work? Ok, and? Ten years from now, nobody will care.

Someone disliked your outfit, or art, or cooking, or something you said? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, and frankly… that’s immensely relieving!

Be Kind to Yourself (And Others)

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Finally, I've learned I just need to be more kind to myself. I overthink less when I stop holding myself to impossible standards.

As a writer and artist who’s a perfectionist, I learned this the hard way. Where others see a beautiful painting, my mind laser-focuses on trivial details. Where others see a soulful chapter in my fantasy books, I see flaws in character development.

It’s important to know when to put down the pen, and just pat yourself on the back. Forgive yourself for messing up or failing. Failure is a positive, healthy, and even necessary thing – it’s the only way you’ll grow and blossom into an even better version of yourself.

Build Yourself Up – Overcoming a Negative Inner Voice

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The following scripts are like mini-anchors to help you not get swept away in moments when you feel a flood of inner negativity.

Feelings Give You Information

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Overthinking can keep us in our heads. When we tune out or shut down our emotions, we lose access to one of the most critical systems our body has for relaying information.

Author: S.K. Lumen

Title: Writer

Expertise: women's personal development, mental health, self love

S.K. Lumen is a writer, artist and blogger who is passionate about helping women become their best selves. She writes about personal development, self-love, self-care, wellness & mental health.