When everyone texts me or messages me, they are quite amazed at how much I am confident in what I say or do.
But things weren't like this always. Despite doing well in my life, I would constantly worry about small things, like whether I made the right decision when ordering lunch, or larger things, like whether I was in the right career or if I was truly happy.
As I continued to overthink every aspect of my life, I began to experience anxiety over and over again. This anxiety began to affect my sleep, my relationship with my daughter, and more importantly, my happiness.
That's how you enter the vicious cycle of overthinking that never stops. Instead, you find yourself worrying about every small and big thing that happens to or with you.
What do you think could be the cause of overthinking?
Overthinking is a common experience that many people go through, but the science behind it is not completely understood. However, there are several psychological and cognitive factors that may contribute to overthinking.
People who are prone to anxiety may be more likely to engage in overthinking because they are constantly worrying about the future, replaying past events in their minds, or trying to anticipate and plan for every possible outcome.
Anxiety can also lead to cognitive distortions, such as catastrophizing or black-and-white thinking, which can further fuel overthinking.
People who are perfectionistic tend to set high standards for themselves and may become preoccupied with achieving these standards. This can lead to overthinking as they scrutinize every detail and worry about making mistakes.
🤯 Cognitive biases:
Biases such as confirmation bias and negativity bias can also contribute to overthinking. Both of these biases can lead to overthinking as people become fixated on certain ideas or experiences and struggle to move past them.
🤯 Genetic or biological component:
Some studies suggest that certain genes may be associated with an increased risk of anxiety and overthinking. Overthinking is likely the result of a complex interplay between psychological, cognitive, and biological factors.
By understanding these factors, individuals can improve their mental health and well-being.
Let's look at what happens inside your mind when overthinking is happening on the outside:
Overthinking can be a result of a complex interplay between various regions of the brain. The default mode network (DMN) is a network of brain regions that are active when the mind is at rest and not focused on the external world.
This network is involved in self-reflection, introspection, and the processing of internal thoughts and emotions. The DMN is also involved in the generation of spontaneous thoughts and the retrieval of memories.
Research suggests that overthinking is associated with increased activity in the DMN. People who tend to overthink tend to have a hyperactive DMN, which leads to an increased focus on the self and internal thoughts, even when these thoughts are unproductive or negative.
This hyperactivity in the DMN can also interfere with the brain's ability to regulate emotions, leading to increased anxiety and stress.
Additionally, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a role in overthinking. The PFC is responsible for decision-making, planning, and attentional control. It has been found that people who overthink tend to have increased activity in the PFC, which may contribute to their tendency to ruminate and get stuck in repetitive thoughts.
Finally, the amygdala, a region of the brain involved in the processing of emotions, also plays a role in overthinking. People who overthink tend to have a more active amygdala, which may contribute to their tendency to focus on negative or threatening thoughts.
In summary, overthinking is associated with increased activity in the DMN and PFC, as well as a hyperactive amygdala.
Understanding the neural basis of overthinking can help people develop strategies to manage this tendency, such as mindfulness meditation or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
What does overthinking look like?
Overthinking can manifest in many different ways in real life. Here are some examples:
👩 Social situations: A person might overthink a social situation by worrying about what they said or did, or how others perceived them. They might replay the situation in their head and obsess over small details.
👩 Decision-making: Overthinking can also occur when making decisions, where a person might spend too much time weighing the pros and cons, considering every possible outcome, and worrying about making the wrong choice.
👩 Relationships: Overthinking can cause anxiety in relationships. A person might analyze every interaction with their partner, worrying about what they said, how they acted, or what their partner might be thinking.
👩 Work or school: Overthinking can also occur in work or school settings. A person might worry excessively about a project, presentation, or assignment, focusing on every detail and becoming overwhelmed by the task at hand.
👩 Health: Overthinking can also occur around health concerns. A person might obsess over physical symptoms, worry about the potential for illness, or overanalyze medical advice or treatment options.
These are just a few examples of how overthinking can manifest in real life. It's important to recognize when overthinking is occurring and to develop strategies to manage it in order to improve mental health and well-being.
What's the solution?
The first strategy is to connect with a mental health professional. While the issue is experienced by millions, you have unique experiences. So, consulting one would help you find the best strategies suitable for you.
Besides that, you can use several strategies to manage overthinking:
✅ Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and being aware of one's thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help individuals develop a greater awareness of their thought patterns and learn to let go of negative or unproductive thoughts.
✅ Exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and it can also help clear the mind and improve cognitive functioning.
✅Time management: Overthinking can sometimes be the result of feeling overwhelmed or having too much on one's plate. Effective time management can help individuals prioritize tasks and reduce stress and anxiety.
✅ Creative activities: Engaging in creative activities such as painting, writing, or playing music can help individuals express their thoughts and feelings in a positive and constructive way. (I have been following this for two years. It helps me a lot).
So, let's break the cycle of overthinking. If you have any strategies that work for you, please share them in the comments...