Can you relate to getting stuck in an overthinking loop, rethinking, and… thinking again, until you’re getting less clear?! I call it Analysis Paralysis.
You’re not alone in this overthinking loop. This has become one of the most popular posts on my blog. These tips are gold.
I was part of a discussion online, in my group for introverts, about the overthinking loop. In that thread, my friend, Alison, offered these fantastic tips.
These tips are tried-and-true and easy-to-do. (There’s brain research to back this up.)
Since introverts tend to be especially prone to the challenge of overthinking, I knew I had to get her tips out to you too. I invited her to write a guest post, and here it is!
How to Break the Overthinking Loop
By Alison Király
Most people, introverts or extroverts, at some time in their lives find themselves overthinking a situation. However, I would be willing to bet that introverts are more prone to overthinking than other personality types.
Thinking deeply about a specific problem or life issue is very important. But when thinking is taken to the extreme of overthinking, what should bring clarity suddenly brings only confusion.
When I find myself facing a difficult problem, personal/private or inter-personal/public, there are 4 things I’ve found that help me emerge from the labyrinth with a clear view of what I am going to need to do to address the issue at hand:
Write down your thoughts.
Don’t try to organize what you are thinking in your head. Put pen to paper (I find the physical act of writing to be helpful, but perhaps simply typing on your computer will work fine for you) and let things flow, stream-of-consciousness style. Then, go back and sort through the jumble, sifting out key points and then re-write in bullet list form. If you hand-wrote things at the beginning, perhaps this is the time to transfer it to a computer format, which is especially helpful if you are going to take your thoughts into a meeting, or if you think you might need to refer to your points during a conversation with someone.
Create a mental image of getting unstuck.
The second thing I do (because, to me, overthinking is like being stuck in a groove that I often have trouble getting out of!) is to visualize a picture of a record turn-table. Visualize the record playing, with the needle stuck in a skip, bumping along in the same groove. Then visualize yourself taking the arm and picking it up and moving it off that bumping groove. Putting this mental image out there truly helps. (You might even add a physical gesture of moving the record needle.)
Do something physical.
When you are in the midst of overthinking, get outside and walk, bike, or run. If you need to stay inside, try something like push-ups or jumping jacks. Even a few minutes can re-boot the brain.
Just notice it without judgement.
If you find yourself overthinking and stuck, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead say, “Yes, I’m thinking about [fill in the blank]. Hello thought.” Then let it go. The next time the thought pops up, acknowledge it, and then say “Bye bye, thought.” Repeat.
I’m grateful to Alison for writing up those thoughts. I think these are some of the best solutions to the overthinking loop and they have really helped me too.
I have two more tips to add for you:
- I also found this very helpful, starting with helping me laugh at myself:
> TED talk about stopping the rumination
- If you’re prone to overthinking, this could be related to how your brain is naturally wired, and there are gifts in having a brain capable of deep thinking. It can just sometimes go into overdrive.
> I recommend learning about introversion and high sensitivity, both of which include the gift of deep thinking. The more you learn about it, the more freedom you find from going into “overdrive”.