Whether they beat themselves up over a mistake they made yesterday or fret about how they’re going to succeed tomorrow, overthinkers are plagued by distressing thoughts—and their inability to get out of their own heads leaves them in a state of constant anguish.
While everyone overthinks things once in a while, some people just can’t ever seem to quiet the constant barrage of thoughts. Their inner monologue includes two destructive thought patterns—ruminating and worrying.
Ruminating involves rehashing the past:
I shouldn’t have spoken up in the meeting today. Everyone looked at me like I was an idiot.
I could have stuck it out at my old job. I would be happier if I would have just stayed there.
My parents always said I wouldn’t amount to anything. And they were right.
Worrying involves negative—often catastrophic—predictions about the future:
I’m going to embarrass myself tomorrow when I give that presentation. My hands will shake, my face will turn red, and everyone will see that I’m incompetent.
I’ll never get promoted. It doesn’t matter what I do. It’s not going to happen.
My spouse is going to find someone better than I am. I’m going to end up divorced and alone.
Overthinkers don’t just use words to contemplate their lives. Sometimes, they conjure up images. too. They may envision their car going off the road or replay a distressing event in their minds like a movie. Either way, their tendency to overthink everything holds them back from doing something productive.
The Dangers Of Overthinking
Thinking too much about things isn’t just a nuisance; it can take a serious toll on your well-being. Research finds that dwelling on your shortcomings, mistakes, and problems increases your risk of mental-health problems. And as your mental health declines, your tendency to ruminate increases, leading to a vicious cycle that is hard to break.
If you’re an overthinker, you likely already know you can’t sleep when your mind won’t shut off. Studies confirm this, finding that rumination and worry lead to fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.
How To Stop Overthinking
Putting an end to rehashing, second-guessing, and catastrophic predictions is easier said than done. But with consistent practice, you can limit your negative thinking patterns: