Overthinking, also known as rumination, is when you repeatedly concentrate on the same thought or scenario to the point where it interferes with your everyday life. Overthinking is widespread and affects many of us. According to Forbes, 73% of people aged 25 to 35, as well as 52 percent of people aged 45 to 55, are regular overthinkers.
There are two types of overthinking: dwelling on the past and fretting about the future. If we overthink everything in our life, it becomes a habit or self-soothing behaviour that we adopt in situations where a solution is required. Overthinking can even make things worse. You may feel ‘stuck’ or unable to take any action if you’re battling with your own thoughts. It can be hard to focus on anything else or remove certain thoughts from your mind. You may feel as if you’re trapped in a maze of thoughts, each one leading to the next – thus creating a chain of unpleasant thoughts.
It’s critical to recognise when you’re overthinking so that you can use the correct tools and techniques to combat negative thoughts and prevent an unhealthy pattern from forming. Interestingly, though, if used the right way, overthinking can help us manifest our biggest dreams. The way it’s normalised today, however, isn’t the best approach.
While not always the case, overthinking has been connected to sadness. That being said, not all overthinking is unhealthy. In the short term, having many thoughts about an issue can actually motivate you to eliminate negatives and become prepared to overcome hurdles. When you’re apprehensive about a big work presentation, for example, the stress can motivate you to put your best foot forward. You may put in a lot of effort on the project and leave home a little early on the day of the presentation to make sure you arrive on time.
However, overthinking becomes unhealthy when it keeps you from taking action or interferes with your daily life and well-being. Stress can also make it more difficult for you to focus and remember things, making work, housekeeping, and other daily duties more challenging. These duties will take longer if you are stressed, which might lead to even more stress.
Overthinking and Poor Sleep
Why do we stay up thinking all night? Overthinking at night happens primarily as the brain processes what occurred during the day at night. This happens as we don’t have the space to digest our ideas throughout the day because our days are now filled with several things that involve taking in large amounts of information.
In many cases, we spend hours overthinking at night about a situation we faced in the past or worrying about the future. It keeps us awake and disrupts our sleep cycle in the process. Thus, by interfering with our natural sleep cycle, overthinking can have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being, too.
Figuring Out the Cause of Overthinking
Many people believe that overthinking is a struggle, but most of the time, it’s not actually a struggle – rather one of the symptoms of a struggle that we are unwilling to address. It’s the fear of not resolving a problem that causes us to overthink things.
This usually stems from not being used to resolving issues and lacking the courage to do it. We use overthinking as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the situation at hand and, as a result, when it comes to resolving the conflict, we tend to overthink it.
Is It a Disease or a Symptom?
Overthinking can cause troubled mental health and, as such, must be treated right away to minimise its effects on our lives and physical health. It’s a warning sign that something’s awry, a signal that the underlying issue is lurking underneath the surface.
It can also be a symptom that can indicate depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental struggles. The best approach to combat it is to seek therapy and professional help, and acquire the necessary tools and techniques because if left untreated, it will begin to cause far more problems than anticipated.
Three Ways to Avoid Overthinking
1. Keep track of patterns and triggers.
A little mindfulness and focus can help you get a handle on your overthinking. Keep a journal and jot down particular instances where you found yourself overthinking or worrying. After some practice, you’ll start to see patterns and anticipate overthinking triggers. This will assist you in developing a coping strategy for when you know you may overthink.
2. Seek professional assistance.
When you overthink all the time to such an extent that it interferes with your everyday activities, you should seek expert help. As this usually indicates a mental struggle, professional assistance is required in order to be treated.
3. Make your thinking more challenging.
You don’t have to believe everything your mind tells you – even if it feels that way. Overthinking can be stifled by challenging fears and ruminations, and viewing them objectively. Evaluate if a thought is rational, reasonable, or useful. There are moments when I, too, begin to overthink and the negative thoughts begin to creep in. As humans, our default response is to be aware of the negative so as to protect ourselves from it. Being mindful of the fact that we have spotted it and can now work on it, rather than allowing it to take over our minds is the key.