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How to stop overthinking; pause, clear your mind, then get strategic

Everything going on currently can make us think ourselves round in circles. I’ve heard from so many people, clients and friends alike, that this year has caused them to think themselves into a state of panic from time to time.

And I totally get it.

The classic overthinking definition is “to think about something too much or for too long.” Now it’s natural to think things through when you need to make a decision or deal with a situation, but it becomes overthinking when you can’t get the thoughts out of your head.

People often start to overthink when they are scared and as a result they worry about all the things that could go wrong. It’s important to recognise when you are doing it so that you can get to the root of the situation that is causing you to feel like this.

Joan Cook, a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor at the Yale School of Medicine says “In my clinical experience, people who tend to overthink and ruminate can be pretty hard on themselves. My hope for people who overthink is to be kinder and more patient with themselves.”

You might have found this happening to you too. If so, then let’s talk about how to stop that cycle of overthinking and get back into a strategic, clear way of seeing the path ahead.

Pause, or ‘paws’ if you have pets

When you overthink, you often bring up all the ‘what-if’s’ and the ‘should-have’s’ from the past. It’s important to remember the past is just that and it cannot be changed, but what you can change is your focus.

Maybe you also drop in some ‘what-if’s’ for the future – the fear of what might happen.

I find that a really good way to stop the anxiety merry-go-round in my own mind, is to do something that brings you into the present moment. By living in the moment, you can take back some control of your mind and thoughts.

Pets are a great helper for this, as they live 100% in the here and now. So if you have a cat to hang out with or a dog to play with, then do that first.

It’s a great way to give yourself a break and to get some endorphins flowing. Young children are amazing at being present too, so if you have kids then get into some colouring-in with them, or just let them take your attention away from your own cyclic thoughts for a while.

Self care – take a bath, shower or a walk

Many of us have our best ideas when we are relaxed, and also not in front of a computer or phone screen. When you are ready to do some clear thinking – try not to think (if that makes sense) as it’s more about letting it happen than making it happen.

Water is great for this. Get into the bath or shower and let the water do its thing. I often come up with answers to things that are on my mind, when I have my morning shower. I’m not even always aware that the ‘thing’ is on my mind and suddenly I come up with either a solution or a different way of approaching something.

I have also made two big decisions in my life both whilst being on holiday. I didn’t plan to make those decisions but because I was at my most relaxed, the answers came to me.

Alternatively, take a walk. Being out in nature is perfect for this. It calms your mind and again keeps you in the moment. As mentioned above, if you have a dog then invite them along.

Grab a pen and paper

Now and only now are you ready for the strategy part. And this is where many people go wrong – they try to squeeze the strategy out of their brain before they’ve got calm and clear enough.

So now that you are in a better frame of mind, you can start to make notes, lists and a plan and you can focus on solutions.

By taking charge of your life and giving yourself some control back, you can get yourself to the place you want to be.

Above all, remember that overthinking is a trap. When you catch yourself doing it, pay attention, step back and pause. Overthinking only drains your energy, and you won’t find the answers you seek that way.

Instead, practice that pause and over time it will become more natural to you. From there you can get clear before thinking up your next move.

If you need any help with getting some clarity around where to put your focus or how to get some control back in your life, please get in touch.

I would love to have a chat with you and we can talk through how I can help with your situation.


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