I used to be a professional overthinker. Literally no one was better than me. I blame this overthinking on my mother, but I’ll save that diatribe for a different time (sorry mom)!
You think I’m kidding. I’m really not. It started when I was a kid and I would overthink my new Barbie choices at the local Wal-Mart. I must have stood in the aisle for hours and hours trying to decide if I wanted Vet Barbie, or Safari Barbie. I was drawn to those two because they both had animals in the box, but the Safari Barbie had a cute and pudgy little panda, but the Vet Barbie had a fluffy puppy, but safari girl had cool brown boots, but vet girl had an awesome job, but safari girl had the cool hair…
OK I’m done- you surely can see where I’m going with this!
Although it was too far back to remember specifics, I can only imagine my mom standing there shifting her weight, and sighing, and rolling her eyes behind my back, trying so hard to be patient. Just freaking choose!- she must have been thinking.
It would be great if my overthinking ended there, but that wouldn’t make for a good story with a happy ending!
I went on to overthink many more things in life, included, but certainly not limited to- my choice of friends, which purse to buy, my choice in husband (I made a great choice though), my college degree, my kids’ names, and which type of orange juice to get at the store (organic vs. non organic but local- who can decide!)
As the years have rolled on though, I have developed some surefire ways to curb my overthinking and make decision making easier. These tricks have made my life quite a bit better and I know that absolutely anyone can benefit from them!
First, lets discuss overthinking.
Is overthinking a disorder?
Overthinking is not a disorder, but it can be a symptom of other disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Major Depression. If you feel that in addition to overthinking, you are anxious a lot, or don’t enjoy life much like you used to, you should bring these concerns to your Dr. For you, overthinking may be a symptom of a larger problem.
Overthinking is generally not good for us and can produce some nasty side effects!
Overthinking can really reek havoc with your body and mind. Among other things, overthinking causes or contributes to:
- Increased stress level
- Low self-esteem
- Tension Headaches
- Stiff muscles
- Poor concentration
- Trouble advancing our lives
Eek! I don’t want any part of that!
While the anxiety and other symptoms that overthinking can cause will not cause you to die, they certainly is unpleasant at best!
17 Surefire ways to stop yourself from overthinking and make decisions easier
When we start to overthink, we sometimes get anxious, and tense up. This shortens our breath. A good solid breath gets more oxygen to your brain helping it to think more effectively. Relaxing helps us to make better decisions by learning to calm our mind.
If you find it hard to breath and relax try the 3-7-8 breathing method- repeat X 4
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 7 seconds
- Exhale for 8 seconds
Find this, and more awesome breathing techniques by Dr. Weil here.
2. Ask yourself why this decision is so hard for you make
Stopping your overthinking in order to make a decision can often be done by tuning in to your own feelings on the subject at hand. Ask yourself why the decision is so hard for you. There can be a variety of reasons why we tend to hesitate and overthink things when making a choice on something. If you can’t hear your own voice on the matter, think about the reasons below and ask if one of these could be the culprit.
Some reasons that we can’t make a decision due to overthinking include:
- We are trying to make someone else happy, and are afraid to make them unhappy
- We are emotionally connected to the non-logical choice
- We are afraid of making the wrong decision
3. Ask yourself what would happen if you made the wrong decision
In most cases, there are not “wrong” choices, only different choices. By asking ourselves this, we are really opening our mind to realizing that either choice would probably be OK in reality.
If you still can’t decide..
Ask yourself how your life would change if you made decision A vs. decision B.
This will help you to see that most likely, either choice may not change your life much. But if the decision WILL really change your life…
Ask yourself HOW will each decision change your life? And which change sounds better to you?
4. Pretend that one choice was off the table
How would you feel if you didn’t have a choice. Do you feel relieved to know that option A is the only choice to make? How about if option B was the only one? Sometimes this helps trick our mind into revealing the choice we really want.
5. Ask a friend to go over this decision process with you
Soon, you will be able to fly through this process in your own mind, but in the beginning, you may find it helpful to have a sounding board to help you hone in on your own thoughts and feelings on your choices.
Talking with friends about your choices and your feelings on each one can be very helpful in letting some important talking points emerge from your brain. Often we may not know what is wrong, but if we begin talking, the problem will soon emerge if we let it. Another benefit to this tactic is that friends often see us differently than we see ourselves, and can point out things that we may not have really seen or considered about the choices and which is right for us.
If none of the above techniques does the trick, try one of these simple tricks to help calm your mind, listen to your thoughts and curb your overthinking:
6. Take a walk or go for a run
7. Meditate on it
8. Pray on it
9. Refuse to think about the topic for 24 hours
10. Sleep on it
11. Have coffee with a friend
12. Read a book on the subject at hand
13. Write down a pro-con list
14. Take a bath, or a long shower
15. Go on a long weekend and decide to make a decision when you come home
16. Work in your garden
17. Talk to a counselor
If you are an overthinker, you may very well be thinking that this is a lot of steps to remember. The good news though, is that the more you practice this, the less you will have to intentionally think about this process! With practice, your brain and your heart both begin to recognize their own voices and most choices will come much easier.