Think less, act more.
“I don’t think this post is good enough to be published,” “I don’t think I should eat that chocolate,” “I don’t think I’m a good fit for this company.”
You may not have realized it, but overthinking it is always there. It makes you constantly think about the things that happen in your life:
- If it is a good thing, you will dissect it until you find something bad in what has happened to you, looking for a hidden meaning that it just doesn’t have, like “this post is good but is too simple to be published.”
- If it is a bad thing, you will analyze it, again and again, looking for a way to “fix” something that cannot be changed, “I haven’t heard from the recruiter in weeks, maybe if I hadn’t sent the resume I wouldn’t be anxious.”
Often overthinking is a byproduct of anxiety or depression. This state of mind makes us not concentrate on what we are doing but on all our problems. Our minds blur, our stress and anxiety levels go up, and our efficiency drops.
When we are overthinking, it becomes difficult for us to focus on working or achieve a goal. Usually, that makes us stop doing important things on our daily basis. Therefore, an important key to our productivity is avoiding this ill.
Beyond techniques to relax and thus improve our ability to focus, such as mindfulness (which is highly recommended), overthinking is not good for our mental health. It can be the principal step to failure.
Is it too bad to think a lot?
Augusto Cury, a Brazilian psychiatrist, says:
“Thinking is excellent; thinking too much is terrible.”
So are you telling me to stop thinking? No, nothing is further from my intention. Thinking less doesn’t make you simple, but it will simplify your life.
Thinking too much about things is not just a concern; it can have a significant impact on your well-being. Research has found that stalling in your failures, mistakes, and problems increases your risk for mental health problems.
As your mental health declines, your tendency to be depressed increases, leading to a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
Some studies have also shown that overthinking leads to severe emotional distress. To escape that distress, many over-thinkers turn to unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol or overeating.
If you’re an over-thinker, you probably already know that you can’t sleep when your mind just won’t shut off. Worrying leads to fewer hours of sleep and a lower quality of sleep.
How to stop overthinking things.
First of all, we must be aware of precisely this state and not assume overthinking as normal as part of our way of being or consequence of our lifestyle.
We must not only pretend to get used to living with it, but we must make an effort to change this way of thinking. This situation is usually a consequence of something, so we would have to go a few steps back and locate the cause.
Learn to say “no”; you can’t please everybody.
Brené Brown, a University of Houston professor, has studied diverse topics, including vulnerability, anger, shame, and empathy. In her book Daring Greatly, she explained that saying yes to everything is the first step to egoism and mental overload.
Brown affirms the following:
“The sustainability of giving and loving without falling into resentment and bitterness can only come from a feeling of personal abundance. And that personal abundance will not exist without limits. When we don’t set limits or don’t respect them, we feel manipulated and used. Therefore, we attack the people we hold responsible, rather than addressing their behavior.”.
The other day a friend invited me to a trip. I had not seen him for a long time, and I told him that yes, because of commitment, not because I really wanted to go. I had anxiety the whole week about that trip. I didn’t want to go, but I did not know how to say no.
In the end, I canceled at the last minute when they were counting on me to carry some things, and I was irresponsible for not speaking on time. If I had said no from the beginning, I would not have had that overload of thoughts, and it did not look bad with my friends.
According to psychology today, the need for social approval has many positive aspects, but it also can be psychologically harmful.
If you can’t control your mind when other people ask you for a favor that you don’t want to do, the best thing for your peace of mind is to say no from the beginning.
“It is only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”— Steve Jobs
Your ability to focus is directly proportional to your ability to say no. If you think you have to say yes to be okay with others, you will disappoint them more than you wanted.
By prioritizing your needs, you will be focused on the tasks that are really important to you, and it will be easier to concentrate your mind on that single thing.
Set short deadlines for decisions.
At some point, you have to turn off your brain and decide. The reality is that thinking about your 10th move when you haven’t even made your first doesn’t make sense.
Plus, overthinking a decision only delays the inevitable. If you have to do the shopping anyway, then just decide when to go and stop thinking if it’s a good time to do it, because eventually, you will have to do it anyway, even if it is not the correct time.
When you try to explain everything, you inevitably start to make assumptions. Like when I don’t want to publish a post because I feel like it won’t have many views. The reality is that I really don’t know that for sure. Make assumptions are losing time on the uncertain.
The best thing to avoid over-thinking about the consequences of decisions is to stop thinking about what may happen and put a deadline over that decision. You will never know the real answer just by thinking; you have to act.
You will never have all the correct answers, but bad decisions are better than don’t decide. With bad decisions, you learn. But if you never do the first step, you will never know if what you thought was right or not.
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.— Theodore Roosevelt
If you never take action, you are never wrong, but stopping doing things you want out of fear of being wrong is like going through life on tiptoe.
Mindfulness is a method to learn to manage emotions, reactions, attitudes, and thoughts to face the situations that life presents us through the practice and improvement of the mind.
According to Psychology Today, overthinking can have two phases:
- Reminiscing is focusing on the past. Like why you didn’t do something or why something happened like that.
- Worrying that are predictions you think will have some action. This type of overthinking is directly involved in fear of decisions or acts, like speaking in public or doing something new.
Since mindfulness tries to focus all our attention on the present, practicing it to control and focus our thoughts is a good way to overcome overthinking.
Also, clinical studies evaluate the efficacy of mindfulness as a treatment of psychological and physical symptoms. So doing it even two or three times a week can dramatically change how we see our problems.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.”— Eckhart Tolle
I only practice it for 20 minutes a day, just before starting my daily task. This helps me focus my thoughts on what I want to achieve on the day and prioritize what I need to. Normally, when I have many things for the day, the first thing I do is make a list of these things and focus on what I can solve and how to do it.
Keep your focus on active problem solving instead of the consequences.
Fear is a powerful cause of overthinking: Fear of being wrong, fear of losing a job, fear of the unknown, etc. This makes us think more about the consequences of our actions instead of what we can do about them.
The best way to combat this type of overthinking is to focus on what you can do to achieve the result you want instead of just what could happen. This will focus your mind on solutions rather than problems that cause anxiety. An easy way to do it is when you are thinking a lot about something, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there anything I can do to avoid this problem? If not, then focus your mind on other activities.
- If I can work on this, what can I do to solve the situation?
For example, one of the fears that I have lately that makes me overthink too much is the fear of rejection when I post something.
To solve this problem, I focus on two solutions:
- If I feel that the post is not good enough, then I focus on fixing it until I feel it is good enough.
- If I can’t find how to fix it, then I send it anyway. If I get rejected, it is not because I did not try hard enough, but because it is not the right place for me.
I have realized that most of my weaknesses regarding not feeling good enough are only in my head. Thinking only about it alone makes me unable to work on the posts that will truly give me good opportunities. So feeling like I’m not good only stops me from learning to be good one day.
Overthinking is the first step to failure. It prevents us from taking action to achieve our goals and from working instead of being aware of the consequences.
Do not seek perfection because you will not achieve it. Seeking perfection only lowers your performance. Doing your best is usually enough. Do not spend too much time thinking about everything that can happen to you. What it means to be will happen, do not pretend to find out the future.