Do you often find yourself feeling so stuck that you struggle to stop overthinking and get out of your head? People often describe this as feeling like their head is about to explode and like they wake up and go to bed thinking about the same things leading to exhaustion and burnout.
Often, dwelling over problems is a long-term habit that we have developed as young people. As we become adults, we don’t have the tools to cope with our problems, so we automatically turn to the technique are experts at – dwelling.
How do I know if I am dwelling or overthinking?
It is easy to identify whether you are dwelling or overthinking by looking at your thought patterns. You are overthinking if you are using any of the below phrases:
- What if – “What if” thoughts are usually set in the past. What if I had done x instead of z?
- If only – “If only” thoughts are also regret focused. If only I had done x instead of z.
Usually, the thoughts involved are negative, unhappy, disappointments, and regrets.
How does overthinking affect my mental health?
There is an old saying that goes something like, “worrying is like a rocking chair”. Dwelling is the same. It can go on for hours but it takes you nowhere. Your mind is kept busy in looping thoughts without getting any closer to a resolution.
This leads to exhaustion, burnout, reduced ability to be creative or think outside of the box.
Overthinking can also impact (and cause) anxiety, depression, increased stress levels, and even anger. It also attracts more memories and thoughts that cause further dwelling making us feel even worse.
Remember, the thoughts we fuel will get bigger.
How to stop overthinking
Now that we know what dwelling and overthinking looks like and how it impacts us, we can move onto how we can start to manage it.
It is important to remember that different techniques work for different people and the most effective steps will break the pattern.
As a simple step, start to recognize when you are dwelling. Become familiar with your “what if” and “if only” thoughts. Some people like to keep a diary of their thoughts so that they are able to identify the thought, its intensity and frequency.
Begin to ask yourself what you are learning from your dwelling thoughts. Are they helpful in any way? What evidence is there of their helpfulness?
You may wish to journal on their questions as you would on journal prompts. Writing down their thoughts and seeing them on paper is helpful for some people.
Start to shift from “why” and “if only” to HOW. How can I move from x to y? How can I can I feel better right now?
Consider FACTS rather than feelings. If only I had done x instead of y BUT now that it is done, HOW can I move from x to y? If I cannot, what is the alternative option?
When we become ACTIVE rather than continuing to think about the problems, we can begin to break the cycle of these thoughts.
You might choose to write, but you could also do other activities such as exercise, sing, cook, and clean.
Being active can also help increase serotonin (our feel-good chemical) making us feel happier.
It is perfectly normal and natural to dwell on thoughts. There is a reason why we do this. Usually it is because we are disappointed, feeling rejected, or experienced an upsetting event.
Changing our thoughts can help rewire our brain and we can begin to teach ourselves healthier ways of coping with setbacks.
It’s never to late so start now and if you could use a little help, reach out.