Are You an Overthinker?

By Siew Ching

Wait – don’t overanalyse this question. Read on first to see if maybe you’re guilty of it. Then, take note of our tips on what to do.

You pass a colleague and she looks at you, smiles, and asks if everything is OK. Granted, you’ve been having a tough week at work – and the boss is not too happy about it. Things are slowly picking up, until of course you hear that comment.

Then your brain goes into overdrive. “Does she know something that I don’t know? Did I do something else wrong? Did the boss say something to her and now she’s pitying me? Am I going to get into trouble? Am I going to lose my job? What happens if I lose my job? Will I need to start looking for a new job soon? When was the last time I updated my resume?”

Is this you? Then welcome to the world of overthinking! Overthinking can be a case of overanalysing a situation (case in point above) or simply dwelling on a decision you made earlier today wondering if (or not) it’s the right one. Or maybe you’re overthinking your to-do list for tomorrow and the endless tasks you need to complete.

The good news is you’re not alone. We all know someone who tends to go on and on and on about a situation. Plus, research suggests that a majority of us (think more than 70%!) chronically overthink.

The bad news? It can be a hard habit to break! You’re probably used to mulling over a situation, thinking that it’s best to be super prepared than not at all for the unexpected. But that’s the thing though – you tend to overthink of things that may happen instead of focusing on the things that clearly will happen. And this takes your attention away from what really matters – the present and what to do about it.

Essentially, overthinking is a draining process where you analyse a situation way past its usefulness. Take the scenario above as an example – imagine if your colleague is just trying to be friendly seeing how you’ve had a long day but because of your overthinking, you’ve created this whole scenario where she’s had a chat with the boss (which probably didn’t happen) and that you’ll be out of a job – see how overthinking can blow something as simple as a hey, all good? out of control?

Other reasons why overthinking tends to be unhelpful:

  • Heard the phrase making mountains out of molehills? This perfectly describes overthinking!
  • All that overthinking is a record stuck on repeat, endlessly spinning the same worries and problems – but no solution
  • It makes you less confident of your decisions, shaking your self-esteem
  • It can truly disrupt your life, especially if your overthinking happens just right before sleep – making peaceful nights impossible when you have thoughts running over and over in your mind!

How to deal with your overthinking? Don’t dwell on this too much; read our suggestions below.

#1 Distract yourself!
Rather than sit and think of a problem for endless amounts of time, you can distract yourself from it. In fact, if you can’t seem to find a solution to your situation, then take yourself away from it. People always say “sleep on it” for a reason – because when you give yourself time to rest from the situation, your brain can solve the problem for you! Other ways to distract yourself? Watch a comedy (laughing is the best medicine too when it comes to ruminating!), go for a run or hit the Pilates class, or catch up with a friend over coffee and cake (just make sure you don’t go on and on about your thoughts!).

#2 Do a brain dump
Journal it. When you write everything down, you’re getting your thoughts out of your head so they don’t overwhelm. Or do a list. Maybe you’ve been going over your thoughts on whether to quit your job or not. Make a list of pros and cons. This is more action oriented, and can help give you a clearer picture of the situation you’re overthinking about.

#3 Schedule worry time
Set aside 30 minutes each day to worry – or overthink. Give it a really good go with the worrying, and when the time is up, stop. Move on and wait for your next worry time to go through your thoughts again. If you find yourself overthinking out of that time frame, remind yourself that it’s not time to do so and that you’ll have plenty of time and focus to do this during your worry time.

#4 Find peace and quiet in nature
Nature truly can be a gift. Fresh air will do your mind plenty of good. If you’re able to get out and walk in nature, even better. Studies have shown that taking a 90-minute walk in nature can decrease your overthinking behaviour. This is mostly because you’re surrounded by stillness and quiet, which will be translated to your mind to be quiet and stay in the moment – overthinking aside.

#5 Speak to someone
If your overthinking is distressing or causing you sleepless nights, confide in a good friend or even a professional. You may see a different perspective to all the overthinking and start understanding your situation better.

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash.

Share this article: