Overthinking is one of the most common reasons for visiting a therapist in Europe and the United States. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, 73% of people between the ages of 25 and 35 have problems with overthinking. Among older people, the percentage is lower, just 52% between the ages of 45 and 55.
What does this mean? Simply put, these people complain that they don’t feel well because they think too much. But what’s wrong with overthinking? After all, brain activity always works to our advantage. In fact, it’s not like that:
- Overthinking is not the same as thinking. That is, there is no practical use for it;
- Overthinking drains your energy and strength;
- Excessive thinking about certain events can lead to the wrong conclusions;
- Finally, overthinking distracts you from your work.
How do you know if your thinking has escalated into overthinking? Here are six signs:
1. When pondering, you are not focused on solving the problem
Overthinking is focusing on the problem, whereas problem solving involves finding a solution. Take an example: imagine you live outside the city and a storm is coming. That’s the difference between overthinking and problem solving:
- Overthinking: “I wish the storm hadn’t happened. It would be terrible. I hope the house and my car don’t get damaged. Why does it always have to happen to me?”;
- Problem solving: “I’ll go outside and pick up anything the wind can carry away. I’ll put something heavy against the gate so it won’t swing open and damage my car”.
Finding solutions to problems can lead to productive action. On the other hand, overthinking creates unpleasant emotions and does not help find solutions.
2. It has become difficult for you to make decisions
It’s not just about work. If you’ve found it difficult to make simple decisions, whether it’s deciding what to eat at a restaurant, what store to choose, or what to cook for dinner, you’re probably thinking too much.
What is the way out of this situation? It’s simple: don’t overwork yourself. If you have to make a decision just take the first one or limit yourself to two, maximum three options.
3. In making decisions, you rely only on logic and ignore your intuition
If you tend to ignore your intuition and like to spend hours researching various aggregators and comparison sites, then make long lists of pros and cons, you’re probably thinking too much.
Don’t neglect what nature has already given you. Your intuition is an amazing tool that facilitates many of life’s tasks.
This is confirmed by a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which showed that when study participants were forced to choose between two options based only on their intuition, 90% of the time they made the right choice.
4. You let your anxiety hold you back
Your overthinking holds you back when anxiety prevents you from acting. This is usually accompanied by thoughts of “What if?”.
5. You think more than you do
Have you ever heard the term “analytic paralysis”? It’s when you think a lot, but don’t do anything. In the process of searching for solutions, those who suffer from overthinking may have situations where every solution found will not seem good enough. Which in turn leads to a new stage of thinking. And so on ad infinitum.
6. You are afraid of failing
People suffering from overthinking are also relentlessly striving for perfection in everything they do. They cannot accept failure and do everything in their power to avoid it. Ironically, this usually means inaction. Fear of failure is paralyzing, so instead of taking a risk and failing, they prefer to do nothing at all.
How to deal with overthinking?
The solution to this problem is simple: think less, do more.
Signs of overthinking are most often seen in those moments when you have nothing to do:
- When you’re absorbed in work or socializing with friends, you just don’t have time to think. When you’re at work, try to think about work. When you’re chatting with friends – socialize, try to listen to them as carefully as possible;
- Watching a movie or reading a book is also a great way to stop overthinking;
- Meditation is an ideal way to begin to combat overthinking. Once you’ve mastered the practice of meditation, you can apply it at any time;
- Find a hobby. Playing the guitar, piano, harmonica are distractions, and that’s what we need!
In closing, we would like to quote Anthony Hopkins:
We are slowly killing ourselves from thinking too much or trying to think about everything. You can’t blindly trust the human mind. It’s a death trap.
There’s nothing wrong in strive to thinking (most smart and successful people have succeeded because of their intelligence). But don’t waste your resources on things that don’t concern you. Concentrate your brain on the most important problems, and leave the rest to your intuition.