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How to Stop Overthinking Right Now

by Elise Museles

Picture this: I’m squinting at my computer screen late at night, belaboring whether “delicious” or “tasty” will resonate better in a blog post. “You know, it’s got to be descriptive! But also just casual enough…without sounding too silly, or contrived.” Or imagine me frantically styling a salad for an Instagram photo, the Annie Leibovitz of lettuce, the Ansel Adams of avocado. “Just a little more to the right…there! Perfect! Don’t move! That’s a good-looking salad…”

I hope you’re giggling. I know that I am. Just like you, I am many things. And one of them is a textbook overthinker. Whether burning the midnight oil, obsessing over the latest superfood, or replaying a miscommunication with a friend: if you tend to find yourself stuck in a whirlwind of complicated thoughts and questions, you might be an overthinker, as well.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a massive project has landed on your plate, and the deadline is looming. You’re pounding away at the keyboard, working and reworking the final pieces, and totally oblivious to the clock (and the fact that lunchtime has come and gone!) and totally unsure as to whether you’ve just made the thing exponentially more brilliant or horrifically worse. All you know is you really want to get it right.

I know how it feels, because I’ve been there myself. In those situations, it’s impossible to hear beyond our own heads. You may have told yourself in the beginning that this would be fun, but here you are: maxed out and still pushing as though your life depends on it. You lose sleep over it. You scrutinize every detail. You’re distracted at the dinner table, spending all of your time thinking about how you need this to work out. Instead of letting yourself enjoy a meal with your family, you can’t even hear your child telling you about their day.

In that moment, it’s important to realize something: you’ve gotten so lost in the weeds, overthinking every detail, that not only is the answer to your struggle hopelessly lost, but you’re also missing out on life – and it’s happening right in front of you.

Listen, it’s not all bad. I’d venture that your attention to detail has played a big role in your many successes and achievements. The trouble with overthinking is that it can shift from a cleverly self-refining advantage to a pleasure-zapping high-stress situation – often without you ever noticing. (Remember those hours you spent meticulously mapping out meal plans, counting carbs and calories, and precisely measuring every bite? How fun was that?) Eventually, the situation becomes so complicated that it’s easier to just give up than to follow through.

What’s worse: overthinking keeps us trapped in our heads and completely disconnected from our bodies. (Read that again!)

It’s not just the people around you who miss your attention. When I’m stuck inside my head, spinning in my own little cyclone of worries, I can’t pay attention to what my body is trying to tell me. I forget to hydrate. I wait too long to eat a meal (and my blood sugar plummets). Let’s not even get into the food choices I might make without pausing to be in my body for a moment first. Have you ever totally forgotten to breathe before? I have.

I’m always reminding you (and myself!) to listen to your gut, and for good reason!! Whether it’s what you’re craving for lunch or the solution to your relationship woes, your body knows how to heal itself, and your intuition is always trying to whisper those answers to you. But they’re virtually impossible to hear when you’re stuck in your head and not in your body, completely overthinking while leaving no time for feeling.

The good news? All you have to do is get quiet and listen. As overcomplicated as those swirling thoughts can be, learning to disrupt the pattern so you can truly hear yourself is incredibly simple. Isn’t that a relief?

So, overthinkers, if you’re as ready as I am, let’s stand up and tell our scrutinizing brains: Enough already!

Here’s how I do it:

First, step away. Just as athletes need time to recharge after periods of intensity, so does your brilliant mind. Press pause (or at least slow down) and take in a change of scenery for a moment. (Have you ever noticed how often that “a-HA!” moment comes to you when you’re out for a walk, driving your car, or in the shower?)

Next, take a deep breath. Make your breath as slow and fluid as you can: slowly exhale everything you’ve got in your lungs. Then inhale, slow and deep. Pause at the top, then exhale it fully. Try another round: in, pause, and out again. Relax. If you can create more space and ease in your breath, your adrenals – and your mind – will follow.

Now, it’s time to dig deep. Ask yourself: “Is this excess worry, or fear of not being perfect, or need to do things the ‘right way’ giving me analysis paralysis? Am I hiding my gifts from the world for fear that I’m not quite ready to be seen? Is this worry taking away from my ability to enjoy the process?”

Instead of spiraling into worry, consider…

  • …the worst possible outcome. Is it a feeling of failure? Being judged unworthy? Losing everything?
  • …whether the worst possible outcome is true – or even possible. (Hint: It’s probably not!)
  • …whether the worst possible outcome will matter in a month? A year? Five years? (Be honest!)

Answer yourself fully and thoroughly. Continue with your deep breathing and relaxation. You’ll be amazed at what you see when you return to your problem with clear eyes, renewed energy, and open ears to listen to your gut.

Now it’s your turn: How do you politely let your detail-oriented mind know that enough is enough? Let’s inspire one another to trust our intuition!

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