Worry and overthinking are stress-inducing — and a buzz kill; here are 6 tips for calming your monkey mind
Have you ever felt that there’s a kind of buzz going on in your brain (and it’s not the good kind)? The kind that makes you want to extract your brain from your head, just so you can get some peace? Or numb yourself with enough alcohol or carbs that it could tranquillize an elephant?
If you didn’t already know, anxiety is kind of a big deal. Over 1 in 5 of us struggle with it every day according to the Mental Health Foundation’s 2014 report.
Anxiety’s most insidious symptoms? Worry and overthinking.
I know what it’s like to live life set on OA —overthinking-autopilot — and it’s no life at all. Sure, your body is going through the motions as you travel to work, get coffee and go through your emails. But your head is elsewhere; your own internal nightmare of ‘what if’s’. A thousand catastrophes have happened (in your own brain) before you’ve even had breakfast.
In my opinion, over-thinking is the biggest joy-buster out there. When you’ve been sucked into the vortex of worry, happiness doesn’t have a chance.
Each morning as you may have quickly showered, inhaled your breakfast and ran to catch the train to work, you’ve hardly noticed any of it. You’ve been busy (getting nowhere), fast.
As your body goes through the motions (it’s also pretty tense and crunched up too), your brain has been on OA.
This is how future-tripping goes down: You’ve mentally played out what you expect will be a stressful meeting, felt defensive as you have a mind-argument with your boss about a deadline, and felt a wave of dread wash over you as you imagine tackling your inbox.
Truth is, all of this has happened in your mind as you stand in line at Starbucks before the day has even started.
You’ve been overthinking again, and in doing so, you’re suffering before anything has even had a chance to go wrong in your day — setting yourself up for a fall.
Let’s not waste another minute stuck on this treadmill.
Here are 5 points to start to get you overcoming overthinking:
- Overthinking doesn’t lead to insight. The problems in your life will not be solved by the tense, ruminating stress-thoughts that overthinking creates. The anxious mind will make up a ton of stuff that isn’t true and put a negative spin on everything. The only way to truly know how things will pan out is to take action. Trust me that when you’re in it, or when you take action, you’ll know what to do. Cuz’ you’re smart like that and you can trust yourself!
- You’re still here. At this point in your life, you have a 100% success rate of handling things (you’re still here, aren’t you?!). So whatever future situation you’re ruminating over, trust that you will handle it. In fact, why not take this time to remind yourself of all the challenges you’ve faced and you came out of A-ok? That job interview you aced, the presentation you gave that your boss LOVED, that party you were nervous to go to but ended up making 3 new friends at. You’re basically amazing — you’ve got this!
- It’s ok to be wrong. You’re allowed to make mistakes. If you’re looking for permission, here it is — permission granted! No matter how much ‘thought’ you put into a decision, you can still be wrong, and that’s ok. There’s no way to know until you take the leap. Often, there is no one single, correct decision anyway. Very few decisions are FINAL and sometimes we just need to take action and make a ‘mistake’ in order to move forward. Focus on progress, over perfection — action steps instead of immobility.
- Your thoughts are not facts. They’re kind of like pre-programmed events in the mind, or that annoying (and depressing) song on the radio station that they won’t stop playing. Over and over. It’s time to tune it out. Let’s not take those pesky thoughts for Gospel. Step outside of yourself and see those thoughts as the silly, innocent and misguided worries that they are. Laugh in the face of over-thinking! Bah-ha-ha-ha!
- Do something to help someone else. It’s easy to get caught up in your own brain (and life and issues!). Getting some perspective by shifting your attention to someone else can make all the difference. Help someone out with something at work, write a kind note (or email) to lift someone’s mood, buy the homeless guy outside some lunch or just pay special attention to being kind and considerate as you go through your day. Smile. It’s distracting, life-affirming and perspective-enhancing.
- Don’t let thoughts run amok. Lay them down in black and white. Write a stream of consciousness. It’s better out than in. Plus, it’s much less scary when you can see what you’re dealing with.
When we overcome overthinking, we align our mind, body and spirit with the natural flow of life. And that’s where we find our most joyous — and productive — self.