Do you find it hard to shut off your brain at any given moment? Do you feel exhausted and anxious because of your thoughts? If so, you are probably a chronic overthinker. Unfortunately, overthinking has become a global epidemic, as we live in complicated times that require so much brainpower from us. Responsibilities, finances, emotional trauma, and other problems leave our minds in a state of overdrive. Through extensive research, psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema of the University of Michigan found that young and middle aged adults especially engage in overthinking, with 73% of 25-35 year-olds identified as overthinkers. Not surprisingly, more women (57%) than men (43%) identify as overthinkers.
So, if you have trouble detaching from your thoughts and feel consistently burdened by them, we have some tips below to help you stop overthinking, and common signs that your thoughts have overtaken you.
9 Signs You Are Trapped In Your Mind
1. Regular insomnia
Overthinkers know the difficulty of falling asleep all too well. Insomnia takes a hold on you since you can’t seem to shut off your brain, and the thoughts slowly paralyze you. Your mind races and you feel too wired to sleep; all the worries from the day keep flooding your mind, and you can’t escape from this mental prison.
If this sounds like you, try doing relaxing activities before bed, such as meditating, yoga, coloring, drawing, writing, reading, or even talking to a loved one. Do something that takes the shift off of your thoughts and onto something else that allows your creativity and emotions to come to the surface.
2. Living in fear
If you live in fear of the future, then you definitely are trapped in your mind. In her research, Nolen-Hoeksema found that this fear causes overthinkers to turn to drugs or alcohol in order to drown their negative thoughts.
For this symptom of overthinking, you should start up a meditation practice, or something else that encourages mindfulness and living in the present moment. Other suggestions would be to allow a “window” for the overthinking. Allot 15 to 30 minutes per day to get out all of your worries, whether through writing or talking to someone. This way, you can carry on with your day and leave the worries in the dust.
3. Overanalyzing everything
Overthinkers have one main problem: they have a need to control everything. They want to plan out the future, but because they cannot predict it, this causes them great anxiety. They don’t like dealing with anything they cannot control. They have a major fear of the unknown, which causes them to sit and mull over all the options instead of taking action.
In fact, this study from UC Santa Barbara found that overthinking leads to poor decision-making and judgments.
When you find yourself overthinking, try to bring yourself back to the present moment through deep breaths and thinking about something that relaxes you. Try to think about how these thoughts will serve you in the present moment, and this alone should get rid of them, as you’ll find that they do nothing for you but cause great stress.
4. Fear of failure
Overthinkers also have an incessant desire for perfection in everything they do. They cannot accept failure, and do everything in their power to avoid it. Ironically, this usually involves doing nothing. Remember, fear paralyzes the overthinker, so instead of risking failure, they’d rather not put themselves in a position to fail at all.
If this sounds like you, remember that you are so much more than your mistakes and failures. Also, keep in mind that to get anywhere in life, you have to make some mistakes. These allow you to grow, learn, and reach new heights in your evolution.
5. Constantly second-guessing yourself
Because of their desire for perfection, overthinkers constantly analyze, reanalyze, and triple analyze any situation. They don’t want to make the wrong decision, so they take a very long time to make any choice, because they don’t trust themselves. They are out of touch with their intuition, so every decision comes from the brain, and this isn’t always a good thing. If the brain is so foggy and bogged down that you can’t make a clear decision, then you’re definitely an overthinker.
Learn to trust your intuition, and go with your gut. If it turns out negatively, at least you’ll have learned from the experience, and have more life lessons under your belt.
6. Frequent headaches
If you suffer from regular headaches, you probably think too much. Headaches signal to our bodies that we need a break, and this includes a rest from our own minds. Also, if you pay close attention to your thoughts, you probably think the same things over and over.
Worriers tend to have negative thought patterns that run in a loop, so in order to combat this, try to reinforce positive thoughts instead. Spend time on your breathing and focusing on mindfulness, and you should notice the headaches go away in no time.
7. Stiff muscles and joints
Believe it or not, overthinking can affect your whole body. Once your physical body becomes affected by something, it moves into your emotional body, and until the underlying issue gets addressed, you will keep having aches and pains. Overthinking might start in your brain, but its effects creep into other parts of your body, which leaves you feeling exhausted and lethargic.
Try stretching every night before bed, and getting regular exercise. This will help to promote a healthy body, and therefore, a healthy mind. The mind and body work very closely together; if one is out of balance, the other will fall to the wayside, too.
When we feel tired regularly, this calls for an action plan on our part. Our bodies want us to tune in and listen to their signals, instead of constantly going from one activity to the next and ignoring its calls. While fatigue can also be caused by doing too much and not resting, overthinking can also cause exhaustion. Think about it (but not too hard, of course): when you think about things constantly, you don’t give your mind a rest. Your mind cannot run 24/7; you’ll eventually get burnt out.
When we lived out in nature, we didn’t have so much to worry about, and therefore, we had less to think about. In the modern world, we have complicated lives that require us to do so much in so little time, but because of this, we have even more of a need to slow down and pay attention to our well-being. If you feel fatigued, slow down and figure out what your body and mind need from you.
9. Inability to stay in the present moment
If you can’t even stay in the present moment and enjoy life as it comes, then you are a victim of overthinking. Thinking too much causes you to lose focus of the world around you, and become trapped in your mind. Becoming bogged down with thoughts removes you from the now, and can disrupt your relationships with others.
Remember to open your mind and heart to the world around you, and not get so wrapped up in negative thinking. Only allow thoughts into your brain that serve your well-being, and try to ignore the ones that only bring you down. Life offers so much beauty and the opportunity for incredible experiences, but you can only appreciate this if you learn to tune out of your brain and into your heart instead.
Also, relationships with others help to silence those negative thoughts. When we pay attention to others, we give ourselves a break and therefore put the focus on someone else. Learn to truly listen to others, bond with them, and ask them questions about their lives. We can stop this chronic overthinking problem together by forming communities again, and learning to support and connect with one another.
In summary, focus on doing things that make you feel good and encourage you to remain active. Start an exercise program, join groups to connect with like-minded people in your community, eat healthy foods, have a mindfulness practice, and most importantly, learn to cultivate a positive relationship with yourself. Look at your thoughts as tools to help you grow, not as enemies that hinder your progress.
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”~ Anthony Hopkins