Hi, my name is Angie and I’m an overthinker.
I’ve always been an overthinker and it has been useful somewhat in academic situations. Up until now the only really bad consequence of this for me was indecision. After twisting something around in my head, measuring all outcomes, and most often mulling over all the negative things that could happen, I end up immobilized to act. The result is that I just don’t make a decision, or I avoid it long enough that I don’t need to.
Recently, however, indecision about something in my life resulted in getting me into a stressful and painful situation. Unfortunately, the stress and lack of control over my circumstances got me into a crazy cycle of over-thinking all over again. My thoughts (mostly negative about myself and the people involved) began to affect my mind, my emotions, my will and my faith. Over-thinking became for me a lack of trust in God, and left me trying to work out my problems on my own without Him. It became for me a fixation on everything that was wrong in my life, and not on the blessings I was still receiving. I isolated myself from God’s will and wisdom and ended up in the most spiritually dark place I have ever been. I allowed myself to feel hopeless and abandoned by God.
It took me months to get back to some semblance of normalcy but here are a few of the strategies I tried to avoid my disastrous habit of over-thinking.
Turn back your thoughts to God
I began to feel better when I started fixating my thoughts on God’s love and my desire to do His will, rather than focussing on my current situation. If I was going to over-think, I was going to do it on God’s terms. I consciously made an effort to think that God wouldn’t take away something from me unless He wanted to replace it with something better. It was tough believing it at first, so I wrote down a few affirmations and every morning as I woke up or when I went to bed at night, or anytime I felt negative thoughts rising, I would read them over and over until I felt inner peace.
Talk to someone…
I suggest talking to someone with similar values to your own who is willing to listen and support you in a positive way rather than being critical. For example, a well-meaning friend told me I was being irrational and I should just get over it. It was true that I was being irrational, but it only made me go back into over-thinking about how I could be rational. More helpful was when I was told it was okay to feel hurt, but not okay to dwell on the past or the future, neither of which I have control over.
… but avoid talking too much
In retrospect I think I talked to too many people. Constant talking about my problems only served to sustain my depression. In the same way, avoid situations that you know will lead to over-thinking. For me, trigger situations included listening to love songs, watching romantic comedies or reading blogs on relationships (that was THE WORST!) Sometimes you may need to isolate yourself completely from the situation as well. If possible, take the opportunity to go on a vacation or stay-cation.
See the positive
It’s hard to foster a good attitude if all your thinking is negative. However, it’s easy to find a little blessing in a tough situation if you look hard enough. I tried to view my situation as an opportunity for growth rather than just a loss in my life. It was a wake-up call for me to acknowledge that I can’t keep going through life avoiding making tough decisions or they will be made for me. Perhaps God is preparing me for a big decision in the future with high stakes for success and needed me to address this fault in my character.
My distractions tended to turn into blog posts. If I was going to over-think, then I may as well be productive about it. If you like writing, allow yourself a short time just to document your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be a blog post. It could be a small notebook or even scraps of paper that you don’t have to keep. Don’t spend all day writing though. Get out and get fresh air, exercise and eat well. I found exercising helped a lot too because it helped me sleep at night. If you are not tired at bedtime, your mind is going to race. I made sure to work super hard at the gym so that my body will need the rest more than my mind would need to think. Other things you can do are to try a new hobby or do an activity on your bucket list.
Over-think the right things
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Ask yourself if what you are thinking about is true, noble, right, pure lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. If your answer is “no”, ask God to replace your thoughts with these things and rely on Him to work that change in your heart and mind.