2 March 2022
There’s a lot to think about right now. The situation in Ukraine, energy prices, our jobs, the economy, maybe going back to commuting full time, our families, what’s going to happen with Russia. As our minds dwell on all the things we could think about, it can feel like we’re caught up in a mental whirlwind. Before we know it, we’ve slipped into overthinking without even realising.
Life is uncertain right now, and uncertainty is a breeding ground for overthinking. The more we feel vulnerable about the future, the more we keep trying to solve problems in our heads.
We’ve just spend two years in the middle of a pandemic, with all the insecurity that creates. Just as we’re starting to believe things are getting better, we’re hit with the situation in Ukraine. As human beings, our minds are drawn to thinking about the fate of our fellow humans, especially when they’re suffering. It’s even more so when we’re seeing the images night and day on our tv screens and social media feeds.
Certainly, we’re being bombarded all day long with negative news stories and depressing updates. It’s not surprising that for many people, overthinking can get out of control.
A thought enters the mind and goes round and round in a circuit. Then we start to second guess everything. It may take the form of worrying about Covid symptoms. “Does this headache mean I have COVID-19? What about that cough this morning? Am I tasting things correctly? Is my sense of smell still normal?” Many of us find ourselves worrying about things going on in the wider world. “What’s going to happen in Ukraine?” “Will other countries be affected?” . We can even get caught up in overthinking about what we can do to help. “Is this the best way to help? Or should I be doing something else?
Another powerful source of anxiety is worrying about situations that affect us in the future such as “am I going to be able to afford my energy bills when the prices rise?”.
Or maybe it’s overthinking about work that’s taken control. Work’s an area that’s feeling particularly insecure for many people right now. And you may be having to go back into commuting into the office more or less full time, and not really sure how you’re going to manage it again.
You could start to overthink after a difference of opinion with your manager. Your mind may start worrying about what’s going to happen next. Before you know it, your thoughts are going round and round in an endless loop – what if I get fired?, how will I pay my mortgage? What if I don’t get another job? It’s really difficult right now? What is I get ill, and I can’t work, I’ve worked so hard for my career and now what….And on and on and on until you loop back to your original thoughts.
For more on how to cope with worrying check out my blog on coping with worry.
It can feel as if we’re caught in a brain fog as we focus on everything we could’ve done differently, query our decisions and imagine all that could possibly go wrong. It’s exhausting. But once you’re caught up in overthinking it can be difficult to get out of it.
Often we tell ourselves spending ages going over things in our heads is how we deal with problems. But, overthinking takes up a lot of time and energy as we replay all the “what if’s” in our mind. Usually though, the endless thinking ends up paralysing us and we are less likely to take action as a result.
Of course, it’s normal to overthink sometimes, especially if there’s an important event coming up. We may take our minds through every possible question we could be asked before a job interview, or all the things that could go wrong before a major presentation.
But if overthinking becomes a regular habit, before you realise, it can become your normal way of being. It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts and fear and feel overpowered by stress and anxiety. In fact, the more you think about something, the more you train your brain to worry about it.
When you’re caught up in overthinking, it can feel as if your mind’s in overdrive. When you try to sleep, your brain won’t slow down as it replays scenes in your head and imagines all the things that can go wrong.
While overthinking makes it harder to fall asleep, not being able to sleep makes you think more. As you’re lying in bed, your mind often start imagining how tired you’re going to be the next day and how you won’t be able to cope . In turn, these thoughts, make it more difficult for you to switch off and fall asleep.
For ways to get better sleep, have a look at https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/stop-worrrying-start-to-sleep/
There are ways you can break free from overthinking, and start to take action to change your life. Even in the middle of a crisis. It’s possible to learn how to cope better with uncertainty.
When I work with clients who overthink a lot, we find ways to manage your thoughts so you can focus on the things you want to do in your life. We work at your pace, making sure you have time to develop the skills you need to make the changes you want.
Take Jo, for instance a 40 year old lawyer and mum of two. Jo came to see me because she was constantly thinking about her health and trying to make sense of everything that was going on in her head. We worked together to help Jo to manage her thoughts and focus on the positive things in her life.
In her own words,
I started seeing Celia because I was feeling very anxious and going into a downward spiral with all my thoughts about my health. I found working with her really helpful. Talking it through helped me to understand what was going on and see how I could think about things differently. The hypnosis is very calming too and that definitely contributed.
I was reassured by Celia’s evidence-based approach and that her goal is to equip people with tools to help them.
Now, I’ve learnt to prioritise self-care and my own mental well-being. I now know how to stop my mind from going into overdrive when health issues arise.
I’m much less anxious now. I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself and I feel empowered to manage my own mental health.
If you want to escape from the overthinking trap, try these tips to help your mind to remain calm in stressful times.
You can use distraction to give yourself a break from overthinking and do something you enjoy instead. If you notice yourself getting caught in a mind loop, divert your mind. Doing something different will help your mind let go of the negative thoughts. You could listen to music, do some gardening or talk to a friend. You may also like to try writing, dancing or cooking, to lift your mood.
Distraction not only gives your mind a chance to pause. It can also focus it on doing something more productive. Sometimes, you may also notice your brain finding an answer for you when you stop thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve.
It can help to think of our thoughts as stories. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are impact every aspect of our lives. Once we view our thoughts as stories we are telling ourselves, rather than facts, we can start to see if they help us or hold us back.
See if you can listen to what your mind says and then see if it’s true or just a story your mind is telling you.
You can use this technique to help you to step back from your thoughts.
Rather than saying to yourself ‘I’m going to get ill’ for instance say ‘I’m having the thought that I’m going to get ill’ to remind yourself this is a story your mind is telling you and not the truth.
It helps to keep active and spend time outside in times of crisis. Various studies show people who keep active have less stress and anxiety.
Taking exercise can help you to let go of inner tensions and worries. And focusing on your body, helps you to release your repetitive thoughts.
When you exercise outdoors, you take in lots of new information. You see things, you feel things, and you smell things that absorb your attention.
Often we don’t recognise our negative thinking. We can spend hours scolding ourselves with details from our day without being aware how unrealistic and vicious we are being to ourselves. By identifying our self critical thoughts and recognising when they occur we can start to change our thinking.
When you notice yourself overthinking, it’s helpful to state out loud what the voice in your head is telling you.
Your critical thoughts may sound a bit like this “You shouldn’t have said that in the meeting today at work. Everyone thinks you don’t know what you’re doing now. Just keep quiet in future and maybe you’ll get away with it.”
Sometimes the critical voice comes across as soothing. “You should relax.It’s not important to get that piece of work done tonight. You deserve a break. Just have a drink and watch Netflix instead.”
But then, the same soothing-sounding voice turns on you and starts criticising you for not achieving your goals. “You’re so lazy. Look at you just vegging out all night. You never finish anything.”
Both types of critical voices stop you from taking action towards the life you want to lead. That’s why it’s important to notice when you’re having these thoughts and be aware what they’re telling you.
Mindfulness involves focusing your attention on whatever you are doing right now. If you are concentrating on the present moment, it makes it difficult to overthink,
Mindfulness helps you to become aware of your thoughts and make peace with your mind. Over time, you start to view your thoughts the same way you would passing clouds in the sky, something that will move on and has no control over you.
Ways to do mindfulness
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