How To Stop Overthinking (Or Should You?)
Well, of course you should learn how to stop overthinking! Overthinking is a terrible horrible very bad thing. It makes you feel bad. It’s exhausting. It’s a waste of your time.
It’s a life ruiner.
So you should make it stop.
You should learn how to quit obsessing, live in the present, and quiet your mind.
Everybody knows this. Right?!?
…[insert awkward silence here]
…[insert Anni gathering up enough courage to speak up]
I may be crouching in fear here waiting for rotten tomatos to be thrown at me, but I’m going to have to disagree with Everybody.
Because I’ve thought about this a lot ( 😉 ) and I don’t believe that overthinking is a terrible horrible very bad thing at all.
As a matter of fact, if you are a highly sensitive person, I believe overthinking is your special gift.
If you are a highly sensitive person, your brain is wired for deep processing. You were born to:
- think things through
- mull things over
- carefully consider
- methodically analyze
- meticulously dissect
In other words, you were born to use your mind for thinking. Over and over and over again.
And guys, wouldn’t you agree that this world needs more thinking and not less? (Just watch the news!)
So therefore, instead of learning how to stop overthinking (and thereby wasting your natural potential), I believe you should learn how to use your capacity for deep processing for your own and other people’s benefit.
And here are three things that are going to help you do just that:
Stop Overthinking Take Advantage Of Your Ability To Overthink
1. Switch From Repetitive Thinking To Problem Solving Thinking Mode
The reason why overthinking gets a bad rap is that it’s usually associated with the kind of repetitive loop-di-doop thinking that, yes, gets to be exhausting and time-wastey. The kind of thinking where you just run through the same event or issue in your mind over and over with no end in sight.
The most immediate way to get out of this repetitive mode is to switch into problem solving mode. So instead of just dwelling on a problem, you switch to dwelling on how to solve that problem.
What exactly is the problem you are focusing on?
Are you responsible for solving this problem?
What are potential solutions?
What is the best solution?
THIS is the stuff worth dwelling on.
And by the way, I have found that it’s easiest to switch modes on paper, especially when you are just starting out. Writing down your problem solving process puts an end to the unproductive looping by taking the whole thing out of your mind altogether.
2. Give Your Brain Plenty Of “Good” Problems To Solve
Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll meditate for a few moments. I’ll focus on staying present and emptying my mind. I’ll either think about the number zero or focus on my breathing and count the length of the inhales and exhales.
But to try to do this for any length of time when your brain is wired for deep processing equates to fighting a losing battle.
That’s because my brain actually loves being used. In order for my brain to stay happy, it needs to be fed a steady diet of new information to process and new problems to solve.
When my brain is well-fed, it’s healthy and satisfied.
When it’s hungry, it starts looking for problems where there aren’t any or fixating on unsolvable problems that are not my responsibility.
So how do you make sure a brain like this stays well-fed?
1. Be a life-long learner.
Explore new interests. Read books. Take classes. Watch TED-talks. Whatever sparks your interest, make time for pursuing it.
2. Choose a career that requires continuous learning and using your mind for problem-solving.
Yes, following your interests in your free time will give you a good immediate boost. But in the long run, the best way to guarantee your brain stays well-fed is to find a career that engages your mind in learning and productive problem-solving for several hours every single day.
3. Maximize Your Problem-Solving Ability By Minimizing Stress
To stay in tip-top thinking shape, your brain requires not only the right kind of food, but also the right kind of living conditions. In particular, your brain needs calm and security in order to function optimally.
Whenever your brain is under stress, it likes to fixate and obsess on the source of that stress. This is one of our basic survival mechanisms. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors survived by scanning for threats in their environment and then focusing all their attention on either fighting or fleeing whenever a threat was actually detected. As in: “I see a bear! I’m going to ignore everything else and fight this bear!”
Although we are no longer faced with bears in the forest, our brains still react the same way to any perceived threats – ie. any time we’re under stress. We focus and fixate on ONE thing and can’t let it go.
So another long-term strategy to ensure healthy problem solving thinking habits and avoid unproductive “fixating” is working on minimizing stress in your life. And this is PARTICULARLY important for highly sensitive people, since we are more vulnerable to stress than non-HSPs.
What It All Boils Down To
So here’s what I’d like you to take away from this article…
PLEASE don’t let Everybody convince you to “just empty your mind”.
Your mind is a valuable machine.
As long as you focus on problem solving… As long as you give your mind real problems to solve… As long as you keep excessive stress under check…
You should feel free to keep thinking away.
The world needs your thoughts! 🙂