The other night I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted but I still had some work to do to finish my daily goals. I was getting stuck in overthinking. I began to feel overwhelmed considering how I might have to just quit some of my goals.
Then it hit me-all of that was just in my head. I held myself back from achieving my goals by overthinking.
Another word for this is “rumination” which is what I believe to be at the center of mental illness and the center of everything that holds us back.
Rumination is when you’re stuck in thought about one idea and usually it’s one that’s keeping you from working on your goals. It’s thinking too deeply about past mistakes or future worries. It can manifest as the thought that you’re not good enough, a fear that you’ll fail, or anything else.
What goes on in your mind might differ from time to time, but the principle is always the same:
If you keep focusing on those worries and thoughts, you’ll remain stuck.
But if instead, you can bring attention to them, admit they’re not useful, and set them aside for a later time, you’ll be able to start moving forward and feeling better.
Think about how you feel when you go on a walk. It’s not really possible to get stuck in negative thinking when you’re on a walk. There’s neuroscience research that’s finding that walking or any kind of movement activates the parts of your brain that contribute to drive, motivation, and moving forward.
Walking or any kind of movement breaks the cycle of focusing on your past mistakes and future worries that are repeating in your mind.
Stop Overthinking But Don’t Invalidate The Feelings That Caused It
Once I realized that I was overthinking, I could see clearly that the only way out was to put those thoughts aside and start working. It wasn’t that I was ignoring those thoughts, though. Sweeping things under the rug only leads to them coming back bigger and uglier later.
Instead, I was putting a pin in them because they weren’t useful at that moment. I told myself “this isn’t helping me do what I need to do right now so I’m going to put it aside, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore it.”
Practice doing the same when you’re overthinking and you’ll find it’s a lot easier to get going and feel better.
There’s one final lesson I’ve discovered from this experience that can help you beat overthinking faster.
It’s easier to beat overthinking if you develop the habit of recognizing it quickly. It can be as simple as regularly asking “am I thinking or doing right now?” and if it’s a time to act, then get to work. If it’s time to think, then do that.
But when the thinking time is done, put away all those ideas you have and get to work. Action is the best way to boost your mood and energy and you can’t get there by more thinking.