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How to Stop Overthinking and Start Growing

How to Stop Overthinking, and Start Growing

Rubic's Cube
If I think long enough, it should fix itself.

We spend a lot of time thinking. Maybe too much. How can we stop overthinking, and start growing?

Overthinking is not the problem with my mental health, but instead, the result of living with severe anxiety every day. My anxiety is constantly scanning upcoming events, looking for places it could inject worry.

As soon as my mind picks up the scent of a worry, the overthinking begins.

How many different ways could I fail?

My brain has a predisposition for negative thoughts, therefore a path of overthinking can quickly exhaust my mind and exacerbate my concerns.

Luckily, with some professional help and an obsessive research policy, I’ve nailed down some simple tactics to help me stop overthinking.

This is Overthinking

Like any addiction, the first step is admitting the problem. My problem is chronic overthinking.

Our biggest advantage in this battle against our brain, is that we are aware we do this. Most over thinkers are able to admit that they are an over thinker.

The hard part is admitting it in the moment. When I catch myself overthinking, I am able to interrupt my thoughts with thoughts of “I’M OVERTHINKING. I’M OVERTHINKING.”

By saying this out loud, or directly stopping other thoughts in their tracks, I frame my mind in a way that is easier to transition to my next calming strategy.

Catching intrusive thoughts is very difficult, and takes considerable practice. Be gentle with yourself in this process.

Toss the Raw Steak – Distract Yourself

Dog getting distracted
Distract the over thinking with an easy, clear objective.

For as complex as our brains are, they are equally as simple.

Just like in video games or movies, to distract the guard dog you have to bring along your Raw Steak. When the guard dog is going to blow your cover, toss the raw steak to buy yourself time.

The same is true for us. We’re going to have to distract our mind in order to escape the cycle of overthinking. Simply expecting my mind to stop overthinking is unfair. I have to transition the brain power to something less damaging.

My Raw Steak is finding the tallest thing I can see. What can I find, right now, that is the tallest item in my view.

This is most effective outdoors, as I can survey the area and find the tallest tree. I start comparing one tree to another, thinking about how my perspective changes their height, and then viola. I have stopped overthinking.

After going through the motions of the exercise, my mind way start to wade back to the initial topic. That’s where I need to ask a question.

What Is Happening Right Now?

This is a mantra I have been trying to live by.

Asking myself this question keeps me focused on the current moment.

I’ve spent much of my life obsessing over the past, or fearing the future. I have missed a lot of important moments in my life because I haven’t been present mentally for them.

If I am worried over my next day at work, I can ask myself this question to return my focus where it is needed that moment.

Worrying time is wasted time.

It is unfair to my family to be worried about work during family time. Just as it is unfair to my work to be worried about family during work time. It is just as unfair to myself to expect my brain to multitask so deeply. I can only exist in one place at a time, so I should be giving all I have to each moment.

Stop Overthinking by Planning Your ‘Overthinking’ Time

Empty Journal
Come back to the topic with empty paper, and time allotted to be objective.

I’ve been reading a lot of Tim Ferris lately, and one tip he hammers home is “batching” tasks. This means bundling similar repeated tasks into one time window to get it done efficiently.

I can batch my overthinking.

Normal people may call this reflection…

When I notice a theme of over thinking starting to form around a topic, I can put a bookmark on it. There are times when I need to think thoroughly, but I need to ensure this happens in a healthy way. I can plan my thinking to happen at a productive time, when I can prepare my brain.

To properly overthink, I need to have an objective, and I need a pen.

Once a thought is written, it doesn’t need to hold brain space anymore.

When I sit with a clear objective, and a pen – I can solve the problem and have a written plan. Saving my body the stress of unregulated overthinking.

Learning how to stop overthinking is the hardest thing I have ever done. The reward however, is eternally beneficial.

With a clearer mind, I have been able to slow down enough to actually enjoy beautiful things around me. I’m constantly looking at trees, staying in the moment, and acting objectively. All important ingredients in a healthy life.

Anthony McGuigan
September 2020

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