We all have moments when we obsess about any incident, person or dream. These obsessive thoughts can give a momentary high but eventually your energy starts to drain and you feel trapped by them. You feel you can't stop it but there are a few tools which when used consistently can help you gradually deal with overthinking. Here are the ways you can stop overthinking:
1. Catch your Thoughts
Whenever you find yourself overthinking about any incident, situation or a person, catch yourself thinking about it. Become aware & accept that you are obsessing about it. For example, you are obsessively thinking about someone being rude to you, then catch yourself whenever you have those thoughts. Become aware and accept that you are rethinking about it. Feel the feeling the thought is bringing to you. Feel in the body the emotions it is stirring inside you. You will notice that when you feel the Emotions, that obsessive thoughts start to simmer down.
2. Cost Benefit Analysis
Next step is to do a Cost Benefit Analysis of your overthinking. Our brain has a tendency to ruminate over things which provide us some sort of benefit. For example, in the previous example above, you may be overthinking about somebody being rude to you. Think about what benefit these thoughts are giving you. It might be that you feel like a victim and it gives you satisfaction thinking about being a victim because of the self pity you get to give yourself. Another example could be of a happy situation, a good time spent with your loved one that you may be obsessively thinking about. In this case, the benefit the brain is getting by thinking about it is pleasure by recreating those happy moments. It may also be a way to escape from your everyday reality or it may arise a sense of feeling validated and significant because of the love & attention your partner was giving. This way, the brain keeps overthinking about situations that give some type of payoff or benefit which in turns keeps you safe as what is familiar is safe for the brain. Now once you have figured out the benefits, think about what cost you are paying in order to reap those benefits. In the first example, the cost is, maybe the anger towards the person who was being rude, distress because of replaying those scenes in head, inability to grow out of it, feeling like a victim and being stuck. In the second example above, the cost you are paying is being stuck, inability to move forward, living in the past etc. Thus, the cost you are paying for the benefit from overthinking is very high. Thus, when you analyse the cost you are paying vs the benefit you are getting from obsessive thinking, gradually your brain begins to understand the implications and slowly it will begin to shift from overthinking.
Next step, in making the process to stop overthinking easier, is to reframe the meaning you derive out of the situation. For example, if you are overthinking over a breakup you just had, and you feel rejected because of it; rethink about what does break up mean to you? Are you hurt because you feel rejected & unworthy? Does your identity shatter when you are no longer in a relationship? Do you feel that you can't be happy from now on? Think about all that break up means to you? Now reframe this meaning into something positive. Break up could mean a fresh start, a time to connect with inner self, an opportunity to increase self-love, a chance to create your identity and become your own best friend, a chance to open up the possibility of finding someone you are more in tune with! With this exercise, you will also realise that when we are thinking of others behavior especially the bad ones, it's less to do with you but more to do with themselves. Someone might treat you badly & you may derive the meaning that you did something wrong to "trigger" them but when you change the frame & think from their perspective, they are suffering from their own issues & feelings of inadequacy which they have projected onto you. When you look at the same situation from this angle, instantly your mind switches from being victim to becoming more aware and this helps in stopping the obsessive thoughts. Meaning can also be learned from the lessons that were learnt from the entire experience. So reframe the obsessive negative meaning into something more empowering!
4. Let Go!
And finally, when you become aware, understand the cost and benefit of overthinking, reframe the meaning you make out of it, it's finally time to let go of the attachment to the obsessive thoughts. Letting go is a choice. We may not realise that but when we switch the meaning of the story we tell in our heads, the entire process of letting go becomes easier.
These four steps definitely work wonders but of course not instantly. This takes time & practice but whenever you find yourself overthinking, just repeat the four steps and gradually your brain will learn to centre itself again! What steps you take to overcome overthinking. Comment below and share your thoughts.