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How To Know If You’re An Overthinker

by Rute Barros 5 months ago in self help
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6 signs and tips on how to stop the cycle

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

All my life I’ve been told that I overthink. “Let it go,” my friends tell me when I ruminate about whatever situation we’re in. But it’s never been easy for me to just let it go.

Yet, according to one study from the University of Michigan, 73% of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 and 52% of 45 to 55-year-olds overthink.

What qualifies as overthinking? Health and wellness writer Julia Ries shares in HuffPost:

“If you rehash past conversations, dwell on your choices, or get trapped in a tunnel of “what if” scenarios, there’s a pretty good chance you’re an overthinker.”

The cycle of overthinking comprises 4 phases:

  1. You start thinking about one specific thing;
  2. You become anxious about it;
  3. You get overwhelmed by a swarm of ideas but still have no answers;
  4. You think about it some more.

Stopping this cycle can be hard. When you get stuck in it, it becomes detrimental to your mental health. It can contribute to severe depression and anxiety.

So how do you know if you’re an overthinker? And how do you stop your thoughts from spiraling?

#1 You have a voice inside your head that bullies you by pointing out your every mistake

Unlike other negative voices, such as those related to self-esteem, this one reminds you of horrible mistakes you made two years ago. It constantly brings you down and makes you feel like trash.

It might start whispering in the shower, right before you sleep, or even in the middle of a conversation. (Fun!)

How to deal with it:

While I still hear this voice once in a while, I’ve learned to lower the volume.

What helped me deal with it was being aware of its existence. Knowing what it was made it easier to not focus so much on it.

Yes, you made a mistake and it might have even been horrible, but there’s nothing you can do now. Why waste your energy thinking about something you can’t fix? It’ll only make you feel bad.

It’s easier said than done, but repeat it enough times and you’ll believe it.

#2 You think that every short text or late reply is a sign that people hate you

I struggled a lot with this in the past. I used to analyze every single message people would send me.

“He usually answers right away. He’s not interested in me anymore.”

“Her tone is different in this text. I can feel that she’s angry at me, but I don’t know what I did.”

I would sit there rereading every text and trying to figure out what I did wrong. I would overthink and over-analyze every little thing for hours.

It wasn’t healthy.

How to deal with it:

Keep yourself busy. Distract your mind. Find a way to not think about it by working on something else.

It’s harder to think about what that short text means or why that person didn’t reply when you’re focusing on work or having fun with your friends.

If that doesn’t help, go for a walk or a run. Being with nature, breathing fresh air, and moving your body can help you calm your mind.

#3 You choose every word carefully to avoid upsetting anyone

You might not even know how much you do this. Being afraid of upsetting people and worrying about what they think of you can make you fall into an overthinking spiral.

How to deal with it:

You’re going to upset people, but that’s okay.

Accept that you have no control over what other people think or feel towards you and your actions.

The only thing you can control is your actions. And besides, they’re probably thinking about themselves and their problems.

If you feel you have to walk on eggshells around someone, you need to have a serious conversation with them. It’s important to explain to them how you feel or even set some boundaries if needed. Worst-case scenario, you might have to cut them out of your life.

#4 You’re constantly waiting for something to go wrong

This is something that I’ve always thought of as a “quality” in myself.

“If I wait for the worse, I won’t get disappointed if it happens. And if it goes well, it’ll feel even better.”

I used to be so proud of thinking like this. I believed I was protecting my feelings. But what I was actually doing was crushing any hope I had. And what’s worse is that I would still be sad when things didn’t go well.

How to deal with it:

This is going to sound cliche, but keep believing. Hold on to your hopes and dreams and try to stay as positive as you can.

And if it all fails, fake it until you make it. Repeating something to yourself manipulates your brain into thinking it’s true. So tell yourself that everything is going to be okay and it will be. But if it doesn’t turn out that way, at least you’ll remain positive and hopeful.

#5 You have trouble sleeping because your brain won’t shut off

When you go to sleep, it’s as if your brain was like “you know what? we don’t need to do that.”

Remember that bully in your head that I talked about earlier? This is the time he likes to come out.

How to deal with it:

If you spend your day going around, always busy, and never stop to think, once you lay down in bed, your brain will try to play catch up. It’ll start processing everything that happened that day.

Taking some time to meditate, go for a run, or sit in silence during a meal, gives your brain time to relax.

If you don’t have time during the day, create a night routine that allows your brain to turn off before going to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Overthinking is like working extra hours when you don’t have to. You won’t get any extra payment, you’ll only get tired.

If you relate to any of these signs, you may be an overthinker like me.

Awareness is the first step to healing. After you realize that you’re doing it, you can stop the cycle of overthinking and work on letting go.

It isn’t easy. But it’s possible. With time, patience, and by working on yourself every day, you can get there.

You can finally let go and live a happier life.

self help

About the author

Rute Barros

Bookworm & Dreamer. I write about books and everything else I find fascinating. 🇵🇹 🇮🇪 Get weekly book recommendations: tinyurl.com/bookishnewsletter

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