Overthinking: why is it harmful?

To avoid overthinking you don’t have to stop thinking, but change the content of your mind. We teach you some useful strategies.

Last update: May 13, 2022

Turning an issue around means taking it apart, analyzing it, thinking of alternatives and put a bow on it as a solution. This seemingly simple process can lead to what is known as overthinking.

As its name anticipates, it’s about haunting the matter endlessly, ruminate over a situation, to the point that what we could have under control and see with some clarity, becomes an endless loop. Let’s see how to disable it.

What does overthinking refer to?

Overthinking is a type of thinking that becomes ruminant, repeats itself over and over again, according to which the search for a solution ends up becoming a problem. This flow of thoughts is presented as a difficult situation to control for those who experience it, which affects their well-being and self-esteem.

It leads us to think about future situations that may never happen. We overworry and our anxiety is triggered. It may start with a specific concern, but it ends up tying together many issues and situations.

Let’s see an example: Ana thinks “I have to have the presentation ready on time because if I don’t do it, my boss is going to call my attention like the other time. Although he may also tell me that the presentation is ready, but that he should have worked more on it.…”.

In this mental cataract, meeting the goal of delivering a job on time ends up taking a backseat. In addition, what was possible (finishing the presentation) is going to be done at a very high cost. Perhaps, without the efficiency or quality with which it would have been done, since Ana is stressed.

Learning to stop in time allows us to use our thoughts in our favor and order us, instead of distorting facts and reality. When not, that escalation of thoughts paralyzes and overwhelms us.

At work, it is very possible that overthinking appears and hinders the actions aimed at a task.

Consequences of overthinking

Without a doubt, overthinking causes physical and mental exhaustion, since it directs us to a dynamic that goes hand in hand with emotion and behavior. That is, negative thinking (for example, failure in a certain situation) leads to sadness and discomfort. And then to a behavior of the same nature. This dynamic becomes cyclical and reinforces what we believed at the beginning.

Among the main consequences we find the following.

  • It affects the perception of the problem, since it does not solve it, but rather magnifies it.
  • increases anxiety and nervousness.
  • We experience negative emotions (anger, fear, sadness) around the issue.
  • It lowers our self-esteem since we feel incapable, overcome by the situation, vulnerable.
  • It prevents us from connecting with the present and enjoy it.
  • It leads us to miss opportunities for improvement and growth, since it paralyzes us and leaves us in inaction.
  • Difficult decision making.

The great drawback of overthinking is that it is at the base of other major problems, such as anxiety disorder and depression.

How to avoid it?

Some of the actions that can help us interrupt the loop of thoughts are the following.

  1. Practice relaxation and meditation. From mindfulness to breathing techniques. Performing physical exercise, even if it is about 30 minutes a day, also releases stress.
  2. Try to understand what is behind the thoughts. Afraid of what they say? Fear of looking ridiculous? At the bottom of those thoughts are ideas of ourselves that we learned from experiences, but that can be changed.
  3. Learn to identify the moment when thoughts begin. By doing so, we can recognize that anxiety is about to appear and we will implement measures to avoid it. So instead of spending the whole day brooding over the issue, we can decide to deal with it and then move on to another plan. For example, go out for a walk.
  4. To ask for advice. We arrive at these emotions after thinking over and over about the same thing. So when you start to feel overwhelmed, you can ask someone what they would do in your situation or how they would solve it.
  5. Imagine what you would say to another. In relation to the previous point, try to project what conversation you would have with someone who poses the same problem to you. What advice would you give him?
  6. Replacing one type of thinking with another. When you think you won’t be able to do it, when you find yourself invalidating yourself, have a list of pleasant and triumphant memories at hand.
Talking with another to put the matter in perspective is important, since sometimes we do not understand what is happening to us.

thoughts are not reality

It is important to remember that everything we think is not reality or what is going to happen. They are ideas, interpretations and appreciations of what we think we can do or what could happen.

It is necessary to separate the thinker from his thought. We are not what we think, but we will end up becoming that if we do not seek a solution.

Overthinking leaves us prisoners of the mindof hypothetical scenarios. Thus, far from preparing ourselves for the situation and finding resources and tranquility, we burden ourselves with fear and anguish. That is why you have to learn to get out of that loop and move to a reflective mode.

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