“Show us a technique,” my martial arts Sensei said.
I froze. (I felt I should not have, given how long I have been training).
“Don’t think. Just move.”
He was right. I stayed in my head too much and doubted myself.
Overthinking is self-limiting and exhausting. It can lead to a full-blown anxiety attack with never-ending looping thoughts. By focusing too much on the past or future, overthinking prevents us from living in the present. Fortunately, we can learn to stop overthinking and regain control of our thoughts and emotions.
Thoughts are Not Facts
Thinking is not the problem. The problem is that our brain is not good at dealing with uncertainty and unknowns. When we overthink, anxious thoughts often start with ‘What if’ and one anxious thought leads to another.
“What if I did/said something wrong?”
“What if I lose my job?”
“What if he thinks I am weird?”
These are thoughts, not facts. No one has said anything and nothing has happened (yet). Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on facts or assumptions. Consider alternative, more positive, perspectives. Ask yourself if the situation warrants the concern you are giving it. This cognitive restructuring can help break the cycle of overthinking.
Be Mindful of Confirmational Bias
When we look for information on the internet, we are essentially fulfilling our own confirmational bias. Wikipedia writes: ‘Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values.’
In the context of overthinking, confirmation bias can exacerbate the problem by making us focus excessively on information that proves our fears right. What we can do, instead, is focus on what we can do presently and let time do the rest. Let it come to you, instead of seeking it.
Let Go of the Need to Be in Control
This can be a tough pill to swallow because no one likes feeling lost, insecure, and uncertain about what will happen. The truth, however, is that we cannot control how others perceive us, how things will turn out, or what our future will be like. Accepting this frees us from overthinking. Embracing imperfection and setting realistic expectations will help you navigate life's uncertainties more easily.
As you take these steps toward releasing the grip of control, remember that it is okay to seek support and guidance. If you find it challenging to let go and need help, consider booking an appointment with me. I promise you I won’t bite. :)