Spoiler Alert–There is no normal. Double Spoiler Alert–there’s a lot you can do to stop overthinking and take back control of your thoughts.
What makes someone an overthinker?
The classic overthinking definition is, “to think about something too much or for too long,” according to Tony Robbins. See how many “Yes” answers you have to the following:
- Do you sometimes or often feel overwhelmed by your thoughts?
- Do you find your mind racing when trying to fall asleep?
- Do you analyze past events or think through future events in greater detail than you pay attention to what’s happening around you right now?
- Do you worry about things you can’t control?
- Do you think about something someone said that didn’t sit right with you repeatedly beyond the few minutes after it happened?
- Do you find yourself playing out multiple scenarios in your head for how things could have happened or may happen in the future?
- Did you make it to the end of this list and think, doesn’t everyone think this way?
Odds are, if you think about things beyond the point of simple, decisive problem-solving you may be overthinking. And that may not be a bad thing–everyone overthinks now and then.
When overthinking becomes our normal go-to, that’s when it’s time to take a few steps back and work on healthier, more productive thought patterns.
What is a thought-spiral or rabbit hole?
A thought-spiral (aka “catastrophic thinking) is when one thought triggers another anxiety-producing thought which triggers another, and so on. We can also call this a rabbit-hole but not exactly the one that Alice fell into. You fall into one thought and then farther into the next and sooner than later you’re more than a few thoughts from where you thought you’d be and a lot more stressed. Here are a few examples you might recognize:
- I missed a call from my mom, but she didn’t leave a message or text, so something horrible must have happened.
- If I don’t do well on this work project, I’ll be passed over for promotions, possibly get demoted or fired, and end up on the streets.
- If I don’t make a healthy dinner, keep my home spotless, and spend as much time as possible with my family making fun memories, I’ll be a failure and everyone will think less of me.
There are many ways to spot and adjust your overthinking into something more productive.(Keep an eye out for future posts in this series!)
Does it pass the 1-year test?
Ask yourself, “Am I possibly overthinking right now?”
Then as yourself, “Will this matter to me in a year from now?” and “why?”
If your answer is NO, take a step back and make a simple decision. If the answer is YES, really think about why this matters to you and what impact it will have on your life. If you find yourself unable to stop a thought spiral, reach out to trusted friends or family, and consider talking to someone, like a licensed therapist to work through it.
There is no normal.
You may or may not be an overthinker, and that’s not a ‘flaw.’
You are not alone.
You can take action to curb overthinking and empower yourself with strategies to worry less and have more productive, healthier thoughts.
Keep an eye out for additional posts in this series!