Control Your Mind From Overthinking

Our mind has the power to influence what we say, think, and do. It can trigger the choices we make and our responses to the actions we experience. Despite its many merits, our mind can just as easily be our greatest deterrent if left unchecked. It can essentially turn on itself by causing us to fixate on imaginary realities or those things beyond our control.  As a result, we often find ourselves dwelling in the past or obsessing about the future – a product of overthinking.

Signs of an Overthinker
There are distinct differences between problem-solving, self-reflection, and overthinking. Problem-solving focuses our thoughts on finding solutions while overthinking is the continuous rehashing of the problem. Self-reflection is about gaining a perspective that will enable us to move forward in a meaningful direction while overthinking keeps us swirling in the chaos of negativity.  Thinking that concentrates on resolving problems and gaining a clearer perspective leads to healthy and productive changes. Overthinking produces sleepless nights and high levels of stress by keeping our mind stuck in an endless cycle of the unresolvable.

It’s a good bet you are overthinking when…

(1)  You can’t sleep at night because your brain won’t shut off.

(2)  You keep reliving embarrassing moments or mistakes you have made.

(3)  You spend an excessive amount of time asking yourself the questions “what if” or “why me.”

(4)  You struggle to make decisions in a timely manner.

(5)  You repeatedly second guess the things you could have, would have, or should have done but didn’t.

(6)  You find it difficult to enjoy what it means to live for the moment.

(7)  You stress out on those things that are well beyond the scope of your control.

(8)  You compromise your present and future by fixating on the past.

(9)  You continuously worry about what others think of you to the point you stop being true to yourself.

(10) You are addicted to your negative thoughts to the detriment of your mental and physical wellbeing.

Ways to Control Overthinking
If you tend to overthink, work through these steps to adjust your mindset and how it affects your wellbeing.

(1)  Be cognizant of what triggers you to overthink and use this awareness to change your response to them.

(2)  Put things into perspective by understanding the catalyst for your fears and worries without transforming them into something more ominous than what is the reality.

(3)  Use healthy distractions like meditation, exercise, getting fresh air, yoga, listening to music or reading a good book to distance yourself from your worries and frustrations. Stepping away from the negativity will help to clear your mind and refocus your attention.

(4)  Train yourself to focus more on living in the present and being mindful of your surroundings without judging or reading into your experience.

(5)  Convert negative thoughts into positive ones by thinking in terms of what might go right as opposed to wrong.

(6)  Accept your mistakes as a part of your personal growth, learn from them, and move on.

(7)  Strive to excel in your endeavors with a focus on excellence, not perfection.

(8)  Become an active problem solver in the face of demanding challenges. Dedicate a finite amount of time to analyze what the problem is, how you feel about it, and what you plan to do to resolve it. You may want to put your thoughts into writing to eliminate overthinking the process.

(9)  Decompress before going to bed by setting aside your work, shutting off the stress of electronics, and engaging in 30 minutes or more of relaxing activities geared to calm your mind.

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A.  in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University  and on the Board for LEARN Idaho.  Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging.  As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.