The Overthinker

Story

The other day a buddy of mine and I went for a walk. While we were on this walk, he started telling me that he was talking to a new girl and was anxious about the outcome. He followed this by telling me that as soon as his mind started to flood with negative thoughts (overthinking), he paused, took a deep breath, and told himself to stop.

To give some background my buddy has been healing from a very traumatic exposure a few months prior. What was remarkable is that the tactics he has learned to heal from his trauma also had just applied to a more generic issue, meeting a new girl, and not wanting to mess it up.

This is important because he was able to subconsciously come up with a solution for his overthinking. As soon as it started, his rational brain kicked in and went…nope we are stopping this.

Lessons

For some, meeting someone new that you appear to be interested in, or getting into a new relationship does not cause crippling anxiety. For the overthinker, even the most mundane tasks can cost a high mental tax.

If you deal with overthinking, here are some strategies I have used over the years to avoid those rabbit holes our brains like to create.

Active Countermeasures

When you notice you mind wandering down a dark path of crowded negative thoughts try these:

Combat Breathing – 4x4x4

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  • Breathe out of your mouth for 4 seconds.
    • This will slow down your heart rate, balance out your cortisol levels, and temporally suppress the thoughts you were having; leaving room for clarity.
  • To simplify, take one big deep breath being conscious of your inhale, hold, and exhale.

Ground Yourself

  • Assess where you are. Examples:
    • I am in my house that is located on this street.
    • I am in my living room.
    • I can see the sun is shining. I can feel the heat on my skin.
    • My feet are planted on the ground.
  • This will allow your brain to reassess threats and temporally suppress the thoughts you were having leaving room for clarity.

Workout

  • Do some form for physical exercise, even if it’s brief (moderate to high intensity).
  • This is a way to use a physical activity to overcome a mental problem.
  • This will activate your reward system, producing endorphins that can create a joyful experience.  

Focus on the Facts

  • Stick to what you know is true about the situation you are dealing with.
  • Our brains will fabricate false ideas, so it’s important to fact check them!
  • Make a list or journal about how you are feeling in the moment, and then note the facts of the what’s stressing you below.

These are just a few steps you can take to address your overthinking. When down in the moments of mental chaos, overtime you will develop a habit subconsciously, like my buddy above has, to automatically resort to one of these strategies.

Leave a comment down below if of these strategies has worked for you!

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