Overthinking. We all do it way too much. I’ve spent so much time overthinking over the last few weeks, well, wasted so much time overthinking. I have a constant list in my head of all the things I want to do, ideas, dreams, things I want to achieve. But I waste so much of my time thinking about them that it takes forever to get them done, or even worse – I never do them. I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to write, a camera roll full of photos I’ve taken but haven’t put on instagram…all waiting for some inexplicable “right moment to post” until it’s too late. It’s an overthinking trap! Going round in circles, knowing what you want to do, and even most of the time knowing how to do it, but being paralysed by the worry of doing it right, or how it might turn out. Well, I’ve made a decision to stop overthinking. Starting right now, with this post that I’m writing at lightning speed before I can start overthinking it and it ends up lost in the ever-growing list of unpublished posts that’s sitting in the back-end of my blog!
So I know that I want to start writing more content like this on my blog. I know that my interest in life and how to live the best you can, be your best self and create amazing things for yourself inside and out is what I’m here for, what fires me up, is somehow what I’m supposed to do. What I don’t know is how doing that will work out for me – how it will turn into something I can successfully do with my life and my time, what people will think, the list goes on….. That’s the soundtrack of negative thought that goes round in my head every time I think I’m about to start. Cue overthinking, self doubt and the inevitable giving-up that follows! So I’m calling time on that habit – starting now – and now I’m just doing it. Here goes, and along with it here go my top tips to any of you suffering from the same overthinking problem as me!
Live in the moment
The main cause of my overthinking is worry. My brain clicks into “future-mode” and instead of just doing the thing I want to do in that moment, I worry about how it’s going to turn out. Why it might not work. The most ridiculous thing about overthinking like this is that we don’t (and can’t) even know what might happen if we do the thing we’re so desperately putting off. Something that has blown my mind recently is the realisation that actually, everything that our mind tells us is just a story. It’s something that somehow or other we have learnt to think. This doesn’t mean that it’s true. Our worry about how things will turn out is literally just our brain trying to process our ideas and actions, sparking off warning signals or inventing outcomes that might happen. But that just as equally might not ever happen. Everything we think is either a way we’ve been taught to think by our upbringing, our parents, our society, the people around us (whether they’re people we know or not, or it’s a automatic defence instinct that our monkey-brain would have used to make decisions. But in a situation when there’s no actual danger in-front of us, this instinct just slows us down. We don’t need to listen to that fight or flight or freeze response if there’s nothing actually there to harm us, right?! So when our brains start whirring and overthinking, if we can see this for what it is – just our brain doing it’s thing, processing, and not as some sort of “truth”, then it makes the whole thing a hell of a lot easier! Like, my brain thinking that writing this whole post is pointless right now and that no-one will be interested in it or people will judge me and ‘how could I ever possibly make a living out of this in the future’ is all just that – thinking. There’s no sure way to know how anything will turn out unless we can just focus on what we want to do in the moment, right now, and do it.
Just do it now
One of my fail-safe things to tell myself to stop the overthinking is this – “Just do it now“. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the what-ifs and maybes that you procrastinate, or worse – quit. I end up spending time adding to my to-do list, thinking about what to do and when, how it’s all going to fit in, but if I actually just got on with it and did it, there would be no reason to worry about it at all! Try it now -think of one thing that you need to get done on your list, or want to get done – whether it’s knuckling down and doing that piece of work you need to do, sending that awkward email you’ve been dreading writing or even something as simple as you need to take out the trash but have been putting it off and overflowing the bin while you procrastinate. And just do it. Now. I bet you’ll feel the same as me – once you do it, it seems ridiculous that you wasted so much time worrying about it or putting it off that when it actually came down to it, it hardly took any time at all and you feel a million times better after doing it, like a weight has been lifted! Hold on to that feeling – remember how much better you felt having done it and maybe next time it will be easier to stop the overthinking and start doing.
You don’t have to be perfect
Perfectionism definitely doesn’t help my overthinking. I find myself overthinking about how I’m going to do something, or when would be the right/best time to do it. But guess what? I could just do it now instead, and then it would be done and I’d be moving forward, wherever that might take me to! It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s better to just be done. What is perfect anyway? We’ll never know how to improve or how we could have done it without just trying it first, and then if anything needs changing we’ll have learned for next time!
Don’t worry what other people think
This one’s maybe the hardest to shake because it’s soooo engrained in our heads. We constantly worry what people might think of us – whether we’ll be judged for doing something, if we’ll look stupid, whether people will like us. But do you know what? Most of the time it’s only in our heads, and no-one else is thinking that at all! In reality, people spend way more time thinking themselves than they do about other people and it genuinely only takes a matter of seconds before whatever they thought about you for a moment has been forgotten and they’re thinking about something else. And if someone does think something about you, does it really matter? If the thing that you want to do is important to you, if it’s something you care about and want in your life, then do you really want people around you who are going to judge you for that or hold you back from doing it?
Find the root of the problem…and talk about it
Sometimes overthinking is more than just unnecessary worry. Sometimes there’s something deeper at play than just procrastination, sometimes the thought that we’ve been taught to keep thinking about ourselves isn’t as easy to shake. Sometimes you need to delve further in until you find the root of the problem, and sometimes you need to do something more about that. There’s a fine line between overthinking and full-blown anxiety or even depression and it’s always better to find someone to talk to and seek help if you don’t feel like you can manage the problem alone. I’ve suffered from anxiety in the past, and got to points where I needed more than my own advice, or advice from my friends and Mum, to get through it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about finding a therapist or counsellor, never underestimate how much of a difference just talking to someone qualified can make! I’d recommend looking up a qualified therapist near you via the BACP, or if you’re a little more nervous (or busy!) tot alk to someone face-to-face then there are online services to try – just do your research first and make sure you chose one that guarantees qualified therapists. You can connect with an online mental health counsellor from ThriveTalk.com, who will match you up to someone who’s expertise fits your needs. And don’t just think these kind of things are for when you’re really struggling or feeling low – you’d be surprised how much difference having a life coach or business coach can help with day to day problems like time management, productivity and mental attitude. For some reason we’ve all been taught to look after our bodies to be healthy, when it’s our minds we need to look after just as much (or even more!) Using services like coaching or therapy doesn’t just have to be in an emergency, it can be for mental health maintenance too, just helping you to think better and achieve your full potential! I mean, what’s not to like about that?!
So…how to stop overthinking? Well, it’s still a work in progress for me and like with everything it definitely takes practice. I think the first step is knowing the things that make you overthink (like those I just talked about), noticing when your mind starts doing it, and having the knowledge that you don’t have to listen to those thoughts! You can choose to think something else – switch off the worry and take action. As soon as you start doing, you don’t give your mind the time to start overthinking, and you can just keep moving instead of getting caught in that trap! Do it now, and instead of listening to the negative thoughts, keep telling yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Just do it!