Overthinking...it's the worst, isn't it? I do it way too often. As much as I’ve tried to get myself not to, it just happens.
“Oh gosh what did I say? Did they take it the wrong way? Do I look like an idiot? What if I had done this or that, then this would’ve happened? I'm not going to post or share this because what if it's bad, so I just won't do it at all. Ugh, I didn’t even think about that but now I’m going to overthink how THIS could have led to THAT and now everything sucks.”
Slow down, babe.
I’ve been there and I get it.
Overthinking can be extremely harmful for many reasons. I've especially noticed how overthinking can negatively affect one's creativity.
Even with this blog, for example; it took me a while to go public, because I kept overthinking my writing or the layout of the website, or what others would think. I realized I was procrastinating by thinking in loops and really just putting my mind in a dark place. Instead of thinking about the positive results, I was so focused on what could go wrong. Imagining one bad possible outcome led to a worse possible outcome and so on.
The spiral of overthinking was ruining my creativity, because I was so focused on what could happen if it was a “failure” as opposed to just writing, creating, and enjoying the process. I struggled to think of what to write, because I thought it had to be perfect and original or no one would care.
Then I remembered - no one is me, and I could never be anyone else. I have my own thoughts and way of looking at the world, so why not be confident in that?
According to PsychologyToday, overthinking can unfortunately keep you from thinking "out of the box:"
Again, Saggar found that increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex—the same executive-function center involved in attention and evaluation that was suppressed using tDCS in Lunt’s recent experiment—impeded fresh ideas and thinking outside the box. Saggar summed up these findings by saying, “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up.” This sentiment echoes what tennis legend Arthur Ashe would describe as “paralysis by analysis.”
From my experiences, I can relate and completely agree. Overthinking has held me back from being as creative as I can be, but there ARE ways to overcome it.
Here are some points that have personally helped me with my overthinking:
Go for a run, take a yoga class, dance to your favorite album...whatever it is, get your endorphins going and that alone will put you in a more positive, confident mindset.
2. Write write write
Journal in your notebook or in the notes section of your phone, make a blog post (public or private) - however and wherever you do, just write. You don't have to know exactly what to jot down, just go with whatever you are thinking right then and there. My mind is always a lot more clear and less cluttered when I write down my thoughts.
3. Be aware
Realize that you are overthinking. It may be easier said than done, but if you take yourself out of the situation and observe yourself from the outside, it will make a huge difference in how you feel by looking at the bigger picture. You'll most likely understand that the situation is not as bad as you may have seen it. Becoming aware of your overthinking will give you the power to stop now or in the near future.
4. Affirm yourself
Feel free to read my blog post focused on affirming yourself and why that can be very helpful. Most of the time, overthinking leads to assuming the worst. Next time you think about a negative outcome, tell yourself the exact opposite - a positive outcome that contradicts this one. The more you repeat it to yourself, the more you will believe it, even if you don’t at first. Do not underestimate the power of words and repetition.
5. Call a friend
There will always be someone you can call. You’d be surprised at how many people in your life are willing to be there for you. Overthinking may take you away from reality. That's why it's sometimes necessary to hear a loved one give you the affirmations you may be struggling to believe on your own. If you still feel like there is no one to contact, there are many support organizations, and heck, I’m here! Send me a message, email - I'm here for you and want to you to be the best you can be.
6. Just do it
Maybe you’re overthinking a decision - to apply for that job, to start taking that class, to travel across the world, or even to start a blog (how I 100% felt). But like Nike and Shia both say, just do it. You may be waiting for the “perfect” time or whatever it is - but the more you wait, the more you will overthink it and possibly get intimidated, which can lead to not doing it at all. So just START and see where you’ll go from there.
7. Let it go
You can overthink a future decision, but it’s also common to overthink something that has already happened. Whether it’s an interaction you had with someone (a friend, a date, an interviewer) or anything that you’re struggling to stop thinking about and possibly wishing you could change. I say let go. Realize that what happened has happened and that you can only control your reaction to it. The future is yours and overthinking the past won't fix anything. I’ve been there. I’m the queen of overthinking, but I’ve realized that all that will do is hold you back from more opportunities. You can’t change the past, so why ruin your future by being stuck on what has already occurred? Breathe, let go, and realize that there are way more dates, interviews, and opportunities on their way. Plus now, you’re more experienced for next time.
All of these methods have worked for me. I'm not perfect; I overthink all the time, but I'm glad I have these tools to help. It's a process, but as long as you're aware of it, you're on the right path and can change what happens the next time you start overthinking.
Just remember, you have more power over yourself than you know.