How to stop thinking too much about something or someone
What does it mean to think too much?
Whether it's a work or personal problem, a conflict in the relationship, a comment from a person or any other reason, we often find ourselves thinking too much about something, with no power to give the same subject a second thought.
While it is okay to think about problems in order to find possible solutions, it is important to make a difference between thinking constructively and thinking excessively.
You're overthinking when:
- You try to find an answer that doesn't really exist and it's practically impossible for you to ever find it.
For example, no matter how much you try to determine whether or not a person intentionally hurt you or why someone did what they did, if that person is not willing to give you an answer, there may be no way to know and you may have no choice but to accept that you can't know everything.
You try to use reason and thought to make a decision that should be guided by emotion and not intellect.
For example, thinking you won't know if you like a city or another or a job or another. In cases like these you must stop thinking and start feeling, letting yourself be guided by your emotions and your intuition.
- You keep insisting, thinking about a problem because you demand to find a solution immediately.
If we do not find the solution to something it is preferable to stop, let the mind rest for a while and then try again.
We cannot force our minds to find a solution or have an idea when and how we want. We can only do what we can to generate the best conditions for the best ideas, such as being rested, eating well, being relaxed and having an optimistic and hopeful attitude.
If you try to force, force or demand your mind to work as you want, you will only get stressed and excessive stress does not help to find solutions.
- You're looking for the perfect solution. You think and think and no decision or solution seems good enough to you. There's always a downside. This is because perfect solutions often do not exist.
It is important to recognize when this is happening and to accept that sometimes we have to decide between several imperfect solutions and choose one of them.
- You try to use your thinking to avoid negative emotion. For example, if someone has hurt your feelings (rejected you, humiliated you, etc.) and you feel anger, shame, sadness, anxiety, or any other negative emotion, it is not uncommon for you to think over and over again about what happened to try to process it, make sense of it, understand it, or reinterpret it in a way that makes you feel better.
However, most of the time you end up going nowhere, ruminating in your mind a lot of unpleasant ideas and maybe even with headaches or muscle contractures. If this is your case, be aware of what is happening: you are using your thinking to alleviate your emotions.
From here you have two options: either you do it well or you do something different. Cognitive therapy deals with precisely this: it teaches people how to use their thinking to modify their emotions. But you have to know how to do it well because otherwise you may end up obsessing.
Take a look at the following articles to learn how to use your thinking correctly:
- 12 ways to better use your thinking
- How to use your thinking to overcome your anxiety problems
- Errors of thought
- Negative thoughts. How to change or delete them
Another option is to leave the thought aside to focus more on the present by resorting to mindfulness or ACT techniques. That's what I'll talk about a little later.
Some things you can do to avoid overthinking
- Put things in perspective. To do this ask yourself: Will it matter in a few weeks, months or years? This will help you realize if it's something that really matters and if it's worth giving it so much thought.
- Act. When you are thinking you are not acting but you are living in your mind, with your gaze lost and doing nothing (except inside your head).
Change that for something that involves action and concentration at the same time, so that there is no room in your mind to turn your thoughts around. I mean, stay active and busy.
- Use the self-instruction, "I'm not going to think about this right now." For example, many people think about their problems getting into bed and, instead of sleeping, they become obsessed and end up insomniacs. That might be a good time to use the previous sentence. If it's something that worries you a lot, take a quick note to remember to think about it the next day and prohibit yourself from doing it now.
- Set a deadline to make a decision. If you take too long to make a decision and just think about it, you can set a deadline, force yourself to make a decision by that date, and act on it.
- When your thoughts are motivated by the fear that something bad will happen to you, ask yourself: what are the real chances of this happening?
If it happens, what is the worst thing that can happen to me? Would it really be so terrible? Could I not bear it? Would I die?
These kinds of questions make you realize that you're probably exaggerating, that it's not as likely as you think, and that if it happens, it's not as horrible as you imagine, and you're not as powerless as you think you are, because you probably have the capacity to solve it.
- Focus on the present. When you are entangled in your thoughts you are not in the present, but in the past (thinking of something bad that has happened to you) or in the future (thinking of the bad things that could happen to you). Practicing mindfulness and using some ACT-based techniques can help in this case.
- Stop talking about it with everybody. Some people not only obsess on their own, but also talk to a friend about it over and over again. This not only gives your patient friend a headache but also encourages your obsession.
- When you are with someone, take advantage of the moment to do just the opposite: take your worries out of your mind and focus on more pleasant things. If you really feel the need to talk, try writing it down and then reading it for yourself.
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