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Unhelpful Thinking Styles (6)

You’d be surprised how many people I come across who say that they ‘over-think’ things.  It seems to be a common problem – and causes a great deal of anxiety.  The old saying ‘making mountains out of molehills’ is very apt here and takes a manageable situation and turns it into an insurmountable problem. 

over thinkingFor example – you’ve made a mistake at work - overthinking might lead you to ruminate ….what if someone finds out? ….What if I lose my job?....How will I pay my mortgage?....Before you know it your mind has moved from figuring out a way to rectify the mistake to trying to deal with the idea of having no roof over your head. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating and suddenly life has taken a frightening turn.

You may think that over-thinking can help you prepare for the worst and problem-solve, but it actually increases anxiety and this in turn can cause you to take things out of perspective. 

The root of over-thinking is fear – we feel scared that something terrible is going to happen to us and that we won’t be able to cope. So our brains go into over-drive thinking of all the possible worst-case scenarios and what we might do in each case.  But with over-thinking we tend to over-estimate the risk and under-estimate our ability to manage it. 

So how can we stop over-thinking?  There’s a few strategies that will help:

Firstly it’s about shrinking the mountain back down – so what’s the actual problem? What are the facts? Talking about it with someone you trust can help gain another perspective and provide some reassurance. 

Secondly, is there anything you can you do about it? What are your next manageable steps to working through the difficulty?  

Taking time out from thinking is also essential. Focusing your mind on something else, such as going for a walk, catching up with housework, solving a crossword puzzle – anything that takes your mind off things for a while will help.  You’ll almost certainly find that when you’ve given your mind a rest from over-thinking, you’ll be able to see a more realistic perspective.

Over-thinking at night is also a bad idea – everything can seem a lot worse when you’re tired, it’s dark outside and there’s not many people you can talk to at such a late hour.  Remind yourself that there’s little you can do about your problem at this time of night and that things will seem much better in the morning. 

Of course, you may find that you don’t actually feel you can share your problems with anyone you know, or that the over-thinking has become such a habit that it’s difficult to break.  If you feel you’d like to talk about your concerns with me and gain help to stop over-thinking then please get in touchI’d really like to help.