The process of writing blog posts can be varied, but for me, it typically begins with a topic that Katy and Laura bring up that resonates with me.
If I’m having a little trouble getting started, I’ll get online and pull up memes and quotes about the same subject to spark the creative fire.
I look up things like mindfulness, anxiety, peace, self-care, or encouragement. If that doesn’t work, I’ll Google writers or other people I admire, and more often than not, I’ll find something that gets me thinking, and writing.
The other day, I was looking for something about overthinking; one of anxiety’s favorite dance partners, and something that a lot of us are doing these days. I scrolled through pages of quotes and was unable to find anything that connected.
In fact, I outright hated most of what I found.
Overall, they went something like this, “Overthinking robs you of happiness. Stop it.”
Okay, the first part checks out, but the ‘call to action’ left me lacking.
You see, after almost three years at Anxiety Resource Center, the one thing that I carry with me is that you cannot just STOP doing the things that cause your anxiety symptoms.
Not only is it impossible, it actually increases your symptoms.
Think of how many times you’ve tried to simply stop overthinking. How successful were you?
Saying “Stop it!” when you or someone else is overthinking is about as effective as instructing them to “Calm down.”
If we could just STOP overthinking….could you imagine?
Anxiety is as much a part of your makeup as your actual DNA. It’s our alarm system, and its sole purpose in life is to keep us alive. So, if you were to turn off your anxiety, there would be low-lying danger everywhere going unnoticed.
Anxiety symptoms like overthinking are the act of a protective brain that is a little overzealous. Our thoughts are wired to go negative initially to stay safe. Our brain needs to “play chess instead of checkers” in certain situations to keep us out of danger.
But most of the time, we’d really like it to play checkers.
That’s why I hated so much of what I was reading. The intention was there, but the messaging was wrong and therefore implied that if you cannot just shut off your overthinking then there is something wrong with you.
That sort of thing can lead to frustration and shame, and more anxiety when you fail at trying to JUST STOP OVERTHINKING, and none of us need that!
This one of the many reasons why the work that Katy and Laura do is so important. They are teaching their clients how to overcome decades of indoctrinated thinking when it comes to what anxiety is and, most importantly, what it isn’t.
How good are they, you ask?
Well, a couple of years ago, I used to overthink so much that my physical symptoms were severe. I’d get nauseated or even break out in hives. Now, here I am, able and willing to walk you, dear reader, fellow overthinker, through some techniques that have been a godsend in helping me coexist with my less-than-awesome thoughts. Techniques I’ve learned from Katy and Laura.
I feel like I’m in a masterclass every single day.
Try treating your overthinking like that friend you have who possesses a flair for hyperbole. You know, the one who takes everything and makes it a little extra. We all know someone like that.
(Or we ARE someone like that, but this ISN’T ABOUT ME!!!)
Meaning, gently meet your thoughts with a counterthought, or even just a simple question.
Ask your thoughts for proof. Make them give you the receipts. Are they based on fact or emotion?
Example: My friend replied to my text with “k,” so she must be angry with me.
Is that the only logical reason, or could she be pressed for time, but want to make sure that she returns your text in a timely manner?
You can also schedule time specifically for your thoughts. Set a timer and sit down with them. Have a heyday with your overthinking, and when your time is up, go on with your day.
If you feel like you need to schedule a couple of appointments with yourself and your thoughts throughout the day, do it. You will be surprised at how much better you will feel when you know that you have a designated time to worry.
Take your thoughts all of the way through to a conclusion. Treat them like a kind of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for anxiety. For example, the fear that your friend’s short text means that she’s angry. Take that assumption and ask yourself “Okay, if she’s mad, what happens? Is that the worst thing that could happen? How long will that thing last? What happens after that?
Figure out what you can and can’t control (This is the hardest part for a lot of us!) Are you worried about something in the future? Are you fretting over something that you did or didn’t do in the past? Are you stressing over something involving a loved one? These are things that you can’t do anything about. That is the scariest yet most freeing thing that you can tell yourself.
Yes, it sounds trite, but whatever happens, happens.
These are just a handful of things that I have tried that work for me. You can find more suggestions and information in other blogs on our site, or on one of our awesome Facebook pages (Rethink Anxiety or Anxiety Resource Center).
If you’re a woman, and you are amazing (If you are reading this, you definitely are amazing!) You can also join our private Facebook group, Amazing Women, Stressful Lives to get information, share stories, celebrate victories big and small and get support in a safe, nurturing space.
Learning to work with your habit to overthink takes time and practice. You’ve had these behaviors for years, it takes consistent use of techniques that work for you in order to switch your mindset. The good news is that it is possible to gently guide your mind from the “what if’s” to the here and now.
If your struggles go deeper than self-help and memes, seek out the assistance of a mental health professional. Remember, I learned what works for me by absorbing and utilizing the knowledge of two experts in anxiety. Figuring out how to work through my own struggles without their tutelage was simply not possible. Sometimes you need professional psychological intervention. Reach out.
Above all, we want you to remember, there is nothing wrong with you and anxiety is not the enemy. Your brain is simply doing its job, but sometimes, it becomes an overachiever in the protection department. When that happens, your brain needs to be soothed, not STOPPED.
Remember, no one talks to you more than you talk to yourself, so if you treat your overthinking the same way you treat that melodramatic friend you adore, gently but consistently pulling them back to reality, you are headed in the right direction.