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What do you do when you’re overthinking everything.
Some Whys and How
Our minds can be full of chattering monkeys. Often these monkeys talk all over and through our attempts to make effective decisions.
Overthinking is one of the major reasons we don’t act in a timely or productive way.
Let’s look at what may be causing you to overthink a situation, decision or action.
Uncertainty - you’re not really sure about the choices you’ve made or the basis upon which you’ve made them
Perfectionism - you delay starting a project because you want to do the job well so are thinking about all of the possible avenues
Past Experience - you feel that people are seeking to test and question your abilities, decisions and actions
Lack of Confidence - linked to Past Experiences which have contributed to a lack of confidence in your decisions or actions
Inertia - stemming from uncertainty and a reluctance (or fear) of taking action
Perception - you keep trying to see things from other points of view and adding layers of complexity that may not be there
Control - there are things you can influence and things you can’t. Overthinking can result from not knowing the difference
Feedback vs Failure Mindset - seeing potential failure as being more relevant than what can be learned hinders action
Frustration - the desire to “do something” and blaming yourself for not doing so set against all the all of the above which inspire inactivity
Ok, there are possibly other causes, but in my experience (my own and that of my clients) the above cover many of the motivations for our chattering monkeys. Overthinking is not just about the lack of action it causes, but the emotions such as inability to act generate.
Overthinking can be a habit that we develop and as a habit it can be changed.
So here are some ideas.
Perhaps one solution relies on talking to others to help you "sort your head out". This can be the best option since another person’s perspective can be really useful. It’s the core of what I do professionally, but you don’t necessarily have to hire someone if you’ve a trusted and trusting friend.
Here are some self-help strategies.
Journal: get the ideas out of your head and on to paper. Capturing your thoughts, questions or ideas on paper ensures that you won't miss important considerations and let the chattering monkeys know that they have been heard and their opinions will be noted
Clarity: anything that lies at the root if your overthinking needs to be clearly defined as do your intuitions, knowledge, reservations and optimism surrounding those things. Formally using thinking tools and frames when considering decisions orvactions can help you find clarity. For example, the thinking tools of Edward De Bono and Tony Buzan are highly recommended.
Action: if the source of your overthinking is a problem, decision or action then determine to take one small step towards a possible solution. Telling yourself you are waiting for the "perfect" answer, "perfect time" or "perfect situation" means you'll never do anything. Perfection is not a destination but a journey. The more you know about a situation or thing the more your idea of what is the ideal or perfect moment changes.
Sometimes our overthinking or disruptive thinking seems uncoordinated or not linked to any clearly identified problem, decision or action. You simply have a "busy head" that is running a continual stream of random ideas and thoughts. The chattering monkeys are computing with each other with a mixture of logical, illogical, uncoordinated and fanciful ideas.
Trying to think of not thinking is not useful since to do so you need to be thinking of not thinking!
Don't think of a yellow lemon!
See, in order to think of not thinking of it you thought about it. The mind cannot process a negative.
So here are some other strategies.
Get out of your head!
You could use a pen and paper to "brain dump"
Do something physical
Bring your conscious focus to feelings you can verify at that moment (the temperature, the feel of your clothes, the smells…
Distract the chattering monkeys!
As suggested above trying to tell the monkeys not to think about the things you are overthinking then it has to think about them. Fortunately, the chattering monkeys can be easily distracted. So, hold that idea for a moment.
There is one thing we do, unconsciously, which is directly related to our physiology, our internal state and our behaviour.
That one thing is, our breathing!
Taking control of our breathing means we can start to control our physiology, internal state and behaviours.
Slow our breathing down and we slow down our physiology, thoughts and reactions.
Steady breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, brings your focus to the breath - to that moment. Now if you ask the chattering monkeys to simply count your breath they shift their attention to doing that one job. In time you can train them to simply observe the thoughts and not react to them.
That's an aim.
To train yourself to find the space to observe, but not hold onto or act upon, your thoughts.
Your Mind is your mind. It is a shame that we are not all given the training we need to manage it. However, we can get that training, it’s called Mindfulness.
If you’d like to find out more visit my website: www.dralanjones.com
Thanks for reading.