According to psychologist, Dr. Sarah Allen, a big sign you’re an overthinker is frequently being emotionally absent around others.
Simply put, overthinking is getting caught in a stream of thoughts that may or may not have anything to do with the event that triggered it. In fact, the popular therapy tactic, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, (CBT) aims to help you stop overthinking and focus solely on the thoughts you have evidence are true.
Overthinking can even put a strain on communication in relationships.
Where Do Our Minds Go?
Jessica’s spouse has been quiet for most of the evening. She starts to think he’s mad about something she said. Anger begins to boil because she knows whatever she said couldn’t have been that bad. Why is he being so dramatic and sensitive? She thought. He probably thought my chicken was too dry. I wish I was a better cook. I can’t do anything right.
All this mind activity was created in 30 seconds, mood going from anxious, to angry, to self-deprecating. In reality, her spouse may have simply been tired and was playing Candy Crush to stay awake a little bit longer.
It’s easy to see how overthinking could lead to an unnecessary argument or just an overall bad mood. Many people, especially woman tend to ruminate over minor events. One thing I’ve learned in Therapy is that when overthinking, we tend to make assumptions. For instance, we assume how people will react, we assume there must be something wrong with us when things don’t go our way, we assume there must be a double meaning behind what people say.
Stopping The Toxic Habit Of Overthinking
1. STOP MAKING ASSUMPTIONS
Assumptions can lead to false conclusions, and anxiety over not having the answers to perplexing questions. Assumptions can be based on past experiences, our deepest fears, or our wildest imaginations.
Making assumptions is a another hindrance to effective communication in relationships. Without even realizing, these can become strong beliefs or accusations. A wife may make assumptions her husband is being unfaithful based on her deepest fears.
A big part of not making assumptions is being aware you’re doing it. It takes practice, but it can be done.
Wearing a rubber-band on your wrist is a common technique used to “snap out of” distracting thoughts for ADHD students. It can definitely be used to sting you back to reality when your mind starts going and going.
Leave the room or situation. Call a friend. Anything you can do to interrupt the flow of your fast moving thoughts.
Go somewhere quiet if possible for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Feel the rise and fall of your chest. Let your hands fall limp at your side. Notice any smells… any faint sounds… your mood. Think of a peaceful place you may or may not have actually been. It could be from a painting or movie. Just envision yourself there and feel the calm that follows.
4. WRITING IT DOWN
Translating jumbled thoughts into words on paper helps make better sense of them. Pen to paper is even better than typing in the Notes app on your phone. Looking at your own unique handwriting and the way you form your letters can be empowering.
- Write down the initial moment/event that awakened your thoughts.
- Make a list of the associated emotions you felt..(anger, guilt, sadness, loneliness)
- Only write down the thoughts that are related to the initial event. Anything irrelevant that popped up in your head can stay there for the moment.
4. TAKE ACTION
Are there any solutions that can solve or alleviate the problems that caused you to overthink? Is there anyone you can ask for advice? Maybe there is a solution that requires you to give more of yourself than you feel like giving. It’s up to you to decide if this is worth a battle with anxiety and overthinking.
5. STAY EMOTIONALLY AWARE
Always be on top of whatever it is you need emotionally and make sure you can rely on yourself to get it. I’m not saying don’t go to others for ego-stroking, validation, connection, etc… but ALWAYS be available to provide yourself with the compassion, empathy, and support you need to function as a human being.
This means learning how to separate thoughts from emotions and being present to feel those emotions. This is done by accepting situations, along with how we feel. Self-validation is important because without it, we will constantly question ourselves and look to others for approval.