Overthinking and its dangerous effects
I recently stumbled onto this topic while browsing through my social media feed. Being a compulsive overthinker, I was curious to know more about it and what can I do to stop it.
I did some research and even gave my Toastmaster’s speech on it. It was so well-received that I decided to convert it into a medium article for everyone to take something away.
Human beings have been gifted with an extraordinary brain that we have utilized over the centuries to do some remarkable things. We have written literature, invented things, and have even reached the moon.
We need to think to problem solve the day to day things in life.
But what happens when thinking goes out of hand. When the mind stops being a utility and starts to control you.
Susan Nolen-Hoeksema in her book “Women who think too much” writes that overthinking can amplify all sorts of thoughts and moods.
If you are angry, you will become even more angrier and if depressed, you will get into a depression black hole.
Overthinking leads to wasted opportunities.
Athletes fall into this trap when during the final stretch they start to overthink things and end up losing the game. One of the tennis players from the USA, Tennys Sandgren did exactly that against his match with Roger Federer in this year’s Australian Open. He ended up losing 7 match points and as a consequence the match.
Some of the common traits of overthinkers include:
- living in constant fear of what might happen
- being a perfectionist or taking things personally
- second-guessing themselves
- and always expecting the worst
Let’s look at some of the major effects that overthinking can have on your mind and body.
It is caused by thinking about things from the past and how they could have been different. It’s good to take lessons from them but you shouldn’t worry too much about them.
In their 2012 study on the psychological health of patients in Uganda, Okello et al. found that the most common singular symptom used by participants to characterize depression was rumination about worries or ‘having too many thoughts.
In their 2016 study titled Don’t worry, sleep well: predictors of sleep loss over worry, Marques et al, found that cognitive arousal was one of the main factors for sleep loss.
What generally happens is that the body is asleep while the mind is awake. The common side effect of it is waking up in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep. The resulting lack of sleep can make stress worse.
The third effect that overthinking has on you is analysis paralysis or inability to make a decision.
Consider the scenario that you have been pushing off a decision. You tell yourself, “that’s enough, just pick one and move on.” But the second you make a choice, thoughts of “am I doing the right thing?” start to flood in.
Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do, says overthinking a decision is not only unproductive but hinders you from making any progress. — Source
So what can you do to make sure you don’t fall into this trap of overthinking or getting out of it.
Exercise and meditation are 2 things that are essential for overthinkers.
Exercise takes your mind away from things and reduces your stress levels while meditation allows your brain to calm down.
Put a deadline on your thoughts
Amy Morin suggests that to avoid over-ruminating about a decision, give yourself a time frame to think about it. At the end of it, whatever you decide is what you go ahead with.
To avoid over-ruminating about a decision, give yourself a time frame to think about it. At the end of it, whatever you decide is what you go ahead with.
Schedule a time to think
Schedule some time to think about things and tell yourself to not think about them outside the scheduled time frame.
Overthinking is a silent killer and more often than not people don’t even realize that they are doing it. It has led to many individuals having anxiety attacks or getting suicidal thoughts.
But, stress-busters like exercise and meditation along with careful organization of thoughts can help to avoid it.
I would end by saying, be mindful of your thoughts. Realize when you are overthinking and need to take steps to stop it.
- Protect your brain from stress by Harvard Health Publishing
- Don’t worry, sleep well: predictors of sleep loss over worry
- How to stop overthinking your decisions
- Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
- 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy by Amy Morin
- Qualitative study of the influence of antidepressants on the psychological health of patients on antiretroviral therapy in Uganda
Hi! My name is Jatin Gupta. I am a product designer currently thinking about how to grow as a product designer.
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