“You think too much.”
Has anyone ever said that to you? If so, you probably already know it’s true. You know that you can think small problems into huge problems and that you can think positive things into negative things. You are aware that you are someone who self-sabotages the good things that happen in life. And you have no idea what to do about it.
All is not lost. You can train yourself to think more efficiently. Keep reading to find out how.
Slow Down When You Can’t Think Straight
Bedtime and mealtime are prime times for the mind to race. Since you are exhausted or hungry, your mind and body are not in the proper condition to analyze or decide. You are more open to negativity and irrational thoughts.
In these instances, you need to actively tell yourself, “I am not going to think about this right now. I will examine it another time.” When you go back to this item later, your perspective will usually be different, having moved away from the extreme outcomes you probably envisioned when the thought first came up.
This will take practice, so keep at it and you will see the changes develop over time.
Keep the Proper Perspective
Speaking of perspective, not having it can lead to extreme or catastrophic expectations. It can help to ask yourself, “Will this matter in a month? Will it matter in 10 years?” Many times, the answer will be no. In that case, you can more easily quiet the racing mind and move on to more important matters. If the answer is yes, you have introduced a new thought pattern as you work toward a decision.
Set Short Time Limits
An unfortunate consequence of over-thinking is an inability to make timely decisions. Some decisions do require extensive thought, research, or planning. Others can easily be made in a matter of seconds. Either type can be paralyzed by over-thinking, which means things don’t get done, which will increase your stress level. Give yourself deadlines to make decisions. For small decisions such as when to do the dishes, should you work out, or if you need to answer that email, give yourself 60 seconds. For bigger ones that you normally stew over for weeks at a time, set a deadline for an hour or the end of the day. If it’s a truly big decision that does require research and planning, break the big decision down into smaller pieces that can be completed in an hour or one day.
It’s OK to Make Mistakes
No human is perfect. But that doesn’t seem to stop us from trying to appear to others that we are. Over-thinkers go through every possible scenario and try to eliminate any possibility of a mistake. This is usually a result of the fear of what others will think if you mess up.
Everyone makes mistakes, even the most brilliant people who ever lived. When you make a mistake, simply take ownership, make things right where possible, and evaluate the situation to see what you can learn from it. Those people you fear will ridicule or ignore you for making a mistake? They make mistakes too. Don’t get caught up in unrealistic expectations.
Don’t Assume the Worst
Over-thinkers love to dwell on the worst-case scenario. When a decision is needed, the over-thinker will camp out on the worst thing that could happen, paralyzing him or her into doing nothing. The worst possible outcome is rarely as bad as your mind imagines. It’s fine to plan for a bad outcome. Just don’t let that worst possible outcome prevent you from moving forward at all.
Believe it or not, a good workout can pull you out of a rut of over-thinking. If you are prone to over-thinking, you probably have a lot of stress in your life. Some good exercise will relieve that tension. You can then go back to whatever you need to think about and have a much clearer mind.
Leave Yourself Small Reminders
You can often go into over-thinking mode if you want to keep something important in your mind, so you won’t forget it. The problem here is that you crowd your mind and can neglect other important items. There are some ways to leave yourself reminders, so you don’t have to keep thinking about something all day.
Written note – Write a note for your bulletin board or whiteboard, or jot something down on a Post-It note that you place somewhere that you will see it throughout the day. This will keep this important issue in front of you without having to think about it constantly.
A reminder on your smartphone – Apps such as Google Keep are handy ways to take notes and save them for later. You can then resume your regular activities and the app will remind you about this other important issue at the time you set the alarm.
Surround Yourself with Good People
This has a human and non-human application. The content you consume from blogs, forums, podcasts, books, movies, and other media can greatly influence your thinking. Make sure it is good content that builds you up emotionally and with knowledge.
On the people side, spend time with people that have a positive effect on your thinking so your habit of over-thinking doesn’t get fed.
Become a Person of Action
No one wants to be known for lazy inaction. As you practice these good habits, you will be able to move from thought to action much more swiftly. This will attract more good people to you. People love to be around others who get things done. You don’t have to go to the other extreme and constantly do this and that without giving anything the proper amount of thought. You can just move forward without being paralyzed by over-thinking and go ahead and make decisions and make things happen.