Oct. 29, 2021

Overthinking Is Not Productive - Break the Cycle

Overthinking Is Not Productive - Break the Cycle

In this episode, I discuss the misconception that overthinking is problem-solving or critical thinking. It is not. Overthinking keeps your brain in loops of overanalyzing, stress, anxiety, and depression. It is not productive, but there are ways to break the cycle and stop living in a state of your brain, and the thoughts in your brain controlling your life.

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We all have thoughts that pop into our minds throughout the day, but some of us are way better at controlling our thoughts than others. For some people, these thoughts pop in and out as they please taking complete control of their brain and in some cases – these random thoughts are controlling their lives.  

Overthinking can be crippling causing you to get stuck in a cycle of indecision while trying to navigate through endless unwelcomed thoughts. This in turn can bring on anxiety, depression, and other negative consequences which could lead to additional mental and physical medical issues.  

Not to mention how overthinking impacts your happiness, peace of mind, and overall wellbeing. Overthinkers tend to overanalyze what people say to them, they try to read into what someone has said - questioning the authenticity and sincerity of the positive comments and taking the negative comments personally. 

 Chronic worry, endless ruminating and obsessive thinking become a way of life. Overthinkers live in their head - aware of any and every thought that passes through their mind, but more than that, the overthinker needs to analyze where the thought came from and what they mean. 

The overthinker thinks if they don’t address all their thoughts as they are happening and get to the bottom of why they are happening… something could slip through and be missed and that could have serious consequences.  

Overthinkers have not bought into the philosophy that “ thoughts are not facts”. They believe the opposite and that all thoughts have a genuine purpose and meaning, and all aspects of these thoughts or situations must be explored. 

Indecision, avoidance, and procrastination are common in overthinkers because they are stuck in cycles of overanalyzing and questioning. Usually drawing the wrong conclusions or unable to settle on any real conclusion. Essentially you get stuck in a cycle of thinking with no end in sight.  

Overthinking causes people to dwell in the negative since most intrusive thoughts are negative. Overthinkers might not recognize that they are overthinkers they might see themselves as problem solvers,  but they are not, they are ruminating. 

Problem solvers come up with solutions and implement them, over-thinkers are consumed by the problem and over-analyzing it. Playing it over and over again in their minds with no desire for resolution.  They have convinced themselves that all the worrying and going over things repeatedly in their head is actually helpful.  But constant thinking instead of taking action is not productive. For example, Self-reflection is helpful – evaluating a situation to learn a lesson or find a gift in what happened, this is good this is self-reflection and it has a purpose. 

 What self-reflection is not is it’s not endless questioning – it’s a process and once it's completed – your brain lets it go. 

Just like overthinking is not the same as deep thinking – deep thinking evaluates situations and develops solutions – overthinking keeps the focus on the distorted view that focusing on negativity and pessimism brings. 

 Overthinkers are not necessarily looking to resolve the situation - they look to replay it over and over to see what they could have done differently, what they could have said differently – how they could interpret what someone did or said differently.  Spending more time trying to control things out of our control. Looking at a situation or interaction from all the possible angles and analyzing all the possible interpretations does not get you anywhere - especially since most of the conclusions come from the overthinker's assumptions. 

And decisions based on their assumptions. Assumptions are not facts. 

For some people the constant chatter in their head and the fact that they can never truly relax because their brain is always all over the place it can be overwhelming leading to high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some believe that if they continue to think about things, they can prevent other bad things from happening, that they can control the uncontrollable. 

These thoughts keep the overthinking dwelling in negative and even unrealistic thoughts. 

Signs you are an overthinker:

 1.   There is always a thought on your mind that you can access immediately at any given time. 

2.   You Replay embarrassing moments or mistake you made over and over. Asking a lot of “what if” questions even though you can’t change the past.

3.   You stop thoughts that pass through your mind and consider where they came from and what they really mean. 

4.   Can’t sleep because your brain is always on.

5.   You have a hard time getting out of your head and being present because you’re too busy reliving the past or predicting the future.

6.   Replay conversation over and over trying to think of what you could have said differently and try to seek the deeper meaning of what other people said to you. You’re suspicious of what others say, even complements. 

7.   You dwell on the wrongs people or circumstances have done to you. 

8.   When you’re anxious or frustrated is it attributed to your thoughts and not really based on anything that is actually happening in this moment. 

9.   You’re unable to control your thoughts or when you have them. You Can’t stop dwelling, worrying, or reflecting on negativity or sadness. You’re obsessed with worst-case scenarios.

10.  You dwell on what your life would look like if you made different choices in your past. Or try to plan out every possible scenario of your future to avoid negative consequences. 

 Essentially over thinkers’ brains are occupied by ruminating about the past or worrying even obsessing about the future.

The goal is to shift from overthinking to critical thinking when it comes to evaluating ourselves and situations but this is difficult for overthinkers because they tend to want to ruminate and overanalyze, not come up with solutions like critical thinkers do. 

The toll overthinking takes on you:

1.   Making basic decisions is not easy. Choices are difficult for you. Seeing the positive in things becomes more and more difficult.  

2.   Missed opportunities because you are overthinking and can’t make a decision. You feel like you are being productive, but you really aren’t.  

3.   Stress, anxiety, and depression are a regular part of your life.  Constantly replaying events or interactions from the past over again to see what you could have done differently. Or you’re trying to predict the outcome of things in the future by planning out every possible scenario before it happens but this too is not realistic.  It's like living in a constant state of pacing the floor.

4.   You are not reliable in a crisis. When something happens an overthinker will dwell on why something happened,  who’s fault it was, and how it could have or should have been prevented vs getting the person who needs help, help.  

5.   Overthinkers take longer to seek medical attention when something is wrong with them.  

6.   People get frustrated with your indecision and constant focus on the negative.  Ruminating on events from the past or being obsessed with a fear of the future makes you not fun to be around. 

1. People who are overthinkers have a great need for control and are ultimately trying to control what is out of their control. Increased levels of stress and anxiety cause people to start really digging into overthinking,  likewise overthinking leads to high levels of stress and anxiety so it really feeds into this looping existence.  

When we are stressed or anxious, we can have a strong need for the stress or anxiety to make sense, the thought is, once it makes sense the feeling of stress and anxiety will go away. 

This is not the case. But the overthinker has convinced themselves that it is. When we are in stressful situations our minds have a need to make sense of what’s happening. Especially in situations around anxiety, which is a response to fear – fear of the unknown, fear of what the future holds. Fear of the consequences of failures from the past.

2.   Overthinkers also tend to be perfectionists. The need to be perfect causes the overthinker to play over things in their head to evaluate where they were not perfect and what they could have done differently. The greatest fear here is judgment from others. This is what causes them to play out scenarios and conversations over and over in their head. They are convinced they were not good enough in the various circumstances they are playing in a loop in their head. They are not paying attention to the fact that in most cases no one is actually judging them, it is in fact, simply them judging themselves. 

3.   another key component leading to overthinking is self-doubt or low self-esteem – Overthinkers live in this space. They dwell in the negative of questioning and judging themselves that they believe they don’t deserve good things and they are not worthy of what other people have. Playing the events and what people have said to them over again justifies this mindset. They overanalyze what people have said to them – even compliments.

If you are not a chronic overthinker but you have a tendency to engage in overthinking, here are some steps you can take to avoid falling into the overthinking trap:

1.   Know what sets you off, what are the topics that send you down the stressful and anxiety-ridden path of overthinking? identify and label the emotions most associated with your episodes of overthinking. 

2.   Do a brain dump of the thoughts that are playing in a loop in your head. Once they are written down you can more clearly see if they are rational or not. Plus you write slower than you think, so stopping to write can control the rapid-fire thoughts in your head. 

3.   Go point by point in your brain dump and see what these thoughts are really about – don’t over analyze them, but put them in their place like – this is unrealistic, it is not likely that people are looking at me like this, there are so many things that can happen between now and this point in my future that worrying about this now is a waste of time and energy.  

4.   Looking at things from an honest perspective can alleviate the stress and anxiety it brings. If you can be an observer of your life – take a step back and look at your life from the outside looking in, see what an unproductive waste of time overthinking is. How the lack of action and actual problem solving makes it unproductive and unhealthy.  

5.   Make better use of your brainpower – exercise, walk, do something that occupies your brain cells – read a book, listen to music, break the cycle of overthinking

6.   Find someone to talk to and walk through what you are playing over and over in your head,  they can help give you a different perspective.  

7.   Be accountable for your actions or lack of actions. Knowing there is accountability makes you more likely to take real action and stop obsessing.  

8.   Acceptance – accept that mistakes and missteps are part of all of our lives and ruminating over them and playing them over and over again is not healthy or effective. Learn the lesson or find the gift and move on. 

9.   embrace the unknown and uncertainty as part of life. They are not avoidably, no matter how much you plan ahead.  

10. Practice mindfulness – again mindfulness isn’t about meditation – it could be, but – mindfulness simply means being present – having your mind where your body is. Not stuck in the past or worried about the future, but right here where you are in this moment. 

 If you are a chronic overthinker, and it affects your everyday life,  if you are in a constant state of overthinking, then you have carved long-term neuropathways into your brain where overthinking has become the go-to comfortable pathway your brain takes.  

This, in turn, keeps you in a continuous state of stress, anxiety, and depression. And as a result, these 10 steps I just listed might be harder for you to implement to create sustainable change.  

The good news is Overthinking is a learned behavior, so it can be unlearned, you don’t have to keep living with a brain that is constantly on and constantly driving you to a stressful, anxious existence. There is no quick fix though, it takes work, and it takes time, but you can turn this around and you can change your brain.

Look at it this way. When you were a child and you would cut through a field on your bike, there was a path previously caved through the field from all the other bikes that have traveled this way before.  

The path is clearly defined and well-worn. 

 Think of the neuropathways in your brain like this. 

When something happens these previously carved out pathways are the natural “go-to” journeys our brain takes.  

For some of you,  you have a natural tendency to gravitate towards the negative, Some gravitate towards victim mode, Some tend to focus on doom and gloom, obsessing over things that have happened or things that might happen… While others still lean more towards the positive.  

No matter which way you gravitate towards, these are the neuropathways you have carved into your brain from years of response. And just like the pathways carved out in the field you ride your bike through I was talking about,  if you want to create a new path, it will take time and energy to get the new path to be as smooth and worn in as the old one. 

At first, the old path will be easier to travel, and sometimes you will have a tendency to go back to the old familiar ways because it is smooth and welcoming… But if establishing new neuropathways and breaking old habits of anxiety and stress are your goals, you will need to continue to force your way down the new fresh path you are trying to carve out for yourself. 

It's hard at first, it's hard until it's easy. 

Meaning, you will need to consciously choose to avoid the old “go-to” pathway, for the new, more desirable pathway. 

 Even though right now that pathway takes more conscious choice and dedicated energy. Choosing this new path, each time will have to be an actual choice initially, but by sticking to it, with consistency, soon, the new pathway you are carving out will automatically become the go-to pathway. 

Just like the new path you carved out through the field. It will take riding your bike over the new path for a while to get it as smooth and perfect as the old pathway was. But One day you will wake up and realize you don’t need to think about it anymore, choosing the new pathway happening naturally. 

While the old path has disappeared and is no longer easily accessible.

It’s hard until it is easy. But once you’ve made the transition from one mindset to another you will see the work and dedication was worth it.   This is how the neuroplasticity in our brain works and how our brains have the capacity to make changes. 

So, thinking that since you overthink things, or have stress or anxiety and depression that is always had to be part of your life,  it is not true, you can retrain your brain to think differently. 

You have the ability to control your own thoughts and focus your brain, but just like with a fitness routine to lose weight or build muscle, in most cases you need a trainer to show you how to teach you proven methodologies to get you from one mindset to the other.  

My name is Wendy Pilcher and I help people who are fed-up with allowing the negative thoughts and voices in their own brains control their life.  I help by walking my clients through a proven methodology to regain control while reducing the negative thoughts and voices in their heads to an annoying whisper void of power over them.  I would really love to see everyone living their best life without their own brains holding them back. 

I thank you for listening to this episode of Identify and conquer, I hope this helps you see that overthinking is not helping you. I hope this gives you hope that there is a way to break the pattern. If the thoughts and voices in your head are loud at taunting there is a proven way to stop them, if you are tired of the saboteur region of your brain being in charge, contact me and together we will weaken those voices and take their power away so you once again can take charge of your thoughts and have your life back. If you’re ready to work on changing your neuropathways, connect with me by scheduling a free 30-minute call through my calendar link. or my Identify and Conquer Website

You can also go to my community at changing my brain. Com to continue this conversation. You can also find a link to my calendar in the community, through my website, or on Instagram  @identifyandconquer You can support this show by buying me a coffee.