Let’s Combat Overthinking

Problems! We all have them. Some are small, others are big, while some may be grave, yet we face it. But whatever life is throwing on our way, one thing always remains true: We think about them. We think about the solutions and our worries, whether it’s productive or not, though not applicable to one who love to close their eyes, ears and mind to the problems.

However, sometimes this thinking can become so constant that it’s almost impossible to stop. But if we want to take action in our lives and live in the moment, we need to learn to stop it and that is the actual demand of time. The problem that we’ve all experienced in our lives, however, is hard to stop thinking about it, the more we try, and the intense our thinking becomes to an extent that we forget that we need to find a solution too for that problem.

So, what can we do? According to almost all religions, many therapists and yes certainly by few psychologists, the way to tackle this is via the art of acceptance and letting go.

So, it was such that when I got detained for not scoring enough in my course exam, I couldn’t think of anything other than quitting. My thoughts were more injurious to me that I forgot that I did get an opportunity to appear for a next attempt. The more I saw of my classmates attending their regular classes in the new level of our course, I felt more of inferiority complex, a sense of mind getting blocked came in, my night dreams were just conquered by my results and I couldn’t see much solution other than moving from denial to self-isolation. Well it was my fault though, but a problem is a problem, be it expected or not. But then I had a few of my friends whom I always stayed in touch to give myself strength and started finding ways to find myself peace and for that, I had to stop overthinking. I tried to search online, talked to a psychologist, a person more inclined to philosophies, who was a friend more than a professional to me. The first thing I learnt is to start learning ways to accept that the problem I have does have a solution and overthinking is never a solution to it. During our conversations, I did make up few points that I felt is good to share for it till date is helping me to get rid of overthinking every time I felt such, which I substantiated with more study on my points.

1) Practice the present moment awareness as much possible

When you intentionally focus your attention on incoming sensory data, such as the feeling of the water on your hands while you wash, it reduces activation of the narrative version of your world.

What does this mean in terms of overthinking?

Whenever you intentionally decide to experience only your direct experiences in a network, simply experiencing information coming into your senses like the sense of water hitting the hands or the feeling of getting warmth in tea, you’re reducing activity in your usual experiences involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating. The one that holds together our narrative about the world, the culprit involved in overthinking.

Often meditation breathing exercises can work when you’re overthinking because you focus your attention on the sensory experience of your breathe. Your senses become more alive at that moment. You can do this at any stage through the day. Simply tune into your senses. Whether it’s your feet hitting the ground, or your hands touching the coffee mug. The more you do this, the more you’ll rewire the brain to experience the present moment.

2) Learn how to practice acceptance of your failures

If you’ve ever tried to control your thoughts, you must have found that more thoughts seem to arise. It’s like putting out fire with fire, even though it seems like it’s the most logical thing to do at that moment, though it’s no way feasible. Every time we face a problem, our mind gets obsessed thinking of it. It’s not just with the problem but with regular issues too. Instead of treating them like we were the “thought police”, we instead act as a more casual observer for overthinking is the simplest and the laziest thing one can do in the need of time. We must not simply watch our thoughts and always give them plenty of room with no control to shovel them aside. What we must do is to stop denial of reality and create hypothetical situations of pleasing things occurring instead of failures.

3) Understand that everything comes and goes, if good days go, so do bad days

Everything changes, it’s the fundamental law of the universe and the same works for consciousness that comes and goes. We identify ourselves strongly with our fixed appearance, with our body and our personality, and when it changes, we suffer a lot. Realizing this in the heat of the moment can diffuse fear, anger, grasping, and despair. For example, it’s hard to stay angry when you see anger for what it is. Yet, we find it hard to accept and adopt it, though we console our friends with the same lines and had been listening so much till we took admission in Medical Science.

4) Learn to observe your own state of the mind

If you’ve ever read wisdom from the likes of Buddha, Osho or Deepak Chopra, then you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “become an observer of your mind.” Things in this text look so similar. Every day, we see lots of memos and videos over the Internet, especially in social media saying the same but when we come to a point in overthinking, everything goes blank.

But how do we actually go about it?

Becoming the observer of one’s own mind simply means taking a step back from your mind and becoming aware of your thinking patterns and how you’re responding to things. And if you become aware that you are not your thoughts, the life of these thoughts will begin to grow weaker, they will begin to become more and more lifeless. The power of your thoughts lies in the fact that you think they are yours.

5) Learn the art of re-framing

When overthinking gets the better of us, controlling us, it largely involves negative self-talk. Every time you allow this inner dialogue to take shape, it just becomes stronger and more limiting. But as we all know, when these cycles begin to take shape, it can be just a tough to figure out how to break it. This is where a little positive psychology can help, particularly an idea called “Re-framing”. Much of these strategies are going to come down to your observing your mind and watching your thoughts.

Here are 6 ways to re-frame a negative mind-set which I sourced from that very friend:

1) The first step begins consciously identifying the type of inner dialogue or language you use daily. We all have one. What’s yours?

2) Starting noticing when you’re using negative words or phrases. Just make a note of them. Perhaps you can use a journal for this.

3) Now it’s time to pay attention to the times you use them again. What situations are causing you to be negative?

4) Note what you’re feeling, what time of day it is and where you are.

5) When you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought by saying “Stop!”. This alone is powerful and will make you aware of how many times you are thinking negatively.

6) Now dig deep inside yourself and ask yourself is your assumptions are true. Are you assuming something is negative when maybe it isn’t? Is there actual evidence that backs up your assumptions?

For example, if you’re telling yourself that you can’t handle something, perhaps you should ask yourself if you can handle it. The second thought feels more hopeful and leads to more creativity. By challenging your thoughts and generalizations – you’re helping yourself to see that they might be irrational and that it’s more useful to think optimistically.

In conclusion

As you can see, these mindful strategies involve similar principles. Here is a checklist to implement all of them:

  • Try to practice focusing on the present moment by focusing more on your senses
  • Accept the thoughts you have and that you can’t forcibly change it but you do can change the situations that were responsible for the begin of those thoughts by working smartly hard in a more organised manner, involving the advice by your mentors with a sense of mind
  • Understand that change is the only constant in the universe so is your bad days temporary. If you’re experiencing uncomfortable emotions and thoughts, realize that it won’t last forever.
  • Take in you that you are not the mind and you don’t have to believe your thoughts.
  • Try to challenge the validity of your thoughts

But at last not forget that these are just a compilation of thoughts and ideas that did work for many, including me. But all these are incomparable to talks with Parents, Mentors, and Best trusted friends. Learn to accept that you may be unique but you are not the only one not okay, so try to live and accept the present and work for a more pleasing future. Try to live and fight the moment, not just survive the day overthinking.

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