Analysis Paralysis- How to Deal with Overthinking
When you enter a state of overthinking, it can quickly turn into feeling overwhelmed or anxious, which could affect your physical being. You may start to have a shortness of breath, unable to move- you become paralyzed by your thoughts. So how do you pull yourself out of this moment? Better yet, how do you prevent or deal with overthinking?
I share five ways on how to get a better handle on your overthinking both mentally and physically. Techniques and best practices that help me manage and deal with overthinking daily.
Five Ways on How to Deal with Overthinking
1. Stop and Ask Yourself Questions
I have always been an overthinker. There would be nights when I would stay awake, consumed by my thoughts. But over time, I learned how to deal with overthinking by managing my thoughts in the most simplest and quickest way- asking introspective questions.
Being introspective means examining one’s thoughts. To be reflective of your thoughts.
When you are in the state of overthinking, it’s really a state of hypothetical thinking. Think of the original thought as a seed planted in your head that can quickly grow into different directions of theoretical thoughts.
Some of the thoughts could be partly true, but in reality, most of the time, the thoughts can turn into stories we have developed in our minds.
So, a way that I choose to stop the growth of these hypothetical thoughts is by asking myself these questions:
Is this true?
Is this based on facts?
Did this really happen? Or am I creating a story?
By asking yourself these questions, it will help reframe your thoughts into a more realistic perspective. The answers you receive from asking these simple introspective questions can bring a sense of relief or calmness, a reminder that these are just thoughts, not reality.
2. Write it Down (Post-it Method)
A way to slow down your racing thoughts is by writing. Your thoughts are forced to adjust to the pace of your writing. I like to call this the Post-it notes method when I take a post-it or sticky notepad and start writing down short sentences of what I am thinking and feeling.
I write each thought individually so I can see and question what I am thinking at the moment. Then I read what I wrote down and ask the same introspective questions I shared in the first tip.
Is what I am thinking a truth or reality?
What are the facts?
This method of writing down your thoughts forces your mind to slow down and read them aloud to yourself. And seeing your thoughts written down on a piece of paper feels like the thought no longer lives inside your head but on this piece of paper.
3. Focus on Your Breathing
Our breath connects our mind and body, and breathing is the primary function that keeps us alive. So, when you feel that your mind is about to spin into different thoughts, take a moment to just breathe. Shift your body into its most primary activity- breathing. When you only focus on your breathing, everything is secondary.
A simple breathing exercise I choose to practice when I feel anxious or overwhelmed is by:
Inhaling for 5 seconds
Holding my breath for 4 second
Exhaling my breath for 5 seconds
Repeat 10 times
This breathing technique is an instant focusing mechanism that allows you to shift your focus on being present and to only think about the inhale and exhale counts.
This article was inspired by my conversation with JD the Author from my podcast- The Real Abhinav. JD wrote his book while staying in a homeless shelter with his children. If you are interested in hearing the episode in its entirety, you can find it here.
4. Listen to Music
When you feel overwhelmed with the many thoughts inside your head, sometimes the best remedy is finding a space without any distractions and putting on headphones to listen to some music.
Music can affect your energy and mood, and when you are in the moment of overthinking, it's probably best not to choose music that can get you hyped up and even more anxious. You need calming music, allowing you to concentrate and be open to some clarity. You’ll want music that goes with the natural tempo of your heartbeat at 60 beats per minute.
Try Baroque music.
Baroque music is known to help you enter a deep and relaxed state in which your brainwaves shift from their usual beta frequency of 13-to-39 cycles per second (cps) to the alpha range, about 8 cps. The slow rhythms and beat of Baroque music follow the 60-beats-per-minute pattern that has a relaxing effect on the mind.
There is something therapeutic when you slide on earphones or AirPods to listen to music, but before you select your go-to song, take this moment to try Baroque.
5. Take a Cold Shower
JD, the Author, first suggested this last tip; taking a shower was his way to manage his running thoughts and overthinking. I challenged him to take it a step further by taking a cold shower.
A cold shower or plunge has gained popularity in recent years due to psychological and physical benefits based on small cases studies. There have been claims that cold showers or plunges can help decrease body inflammation, reduce anxiety and stress, and boost your immune system.
One case study shows incorporating a cold shower routine has an antidepressant effect on the brain. The cold blast of water around 20 degrees for 2-3 mins sends the body in shock, activating the sympathetic nervous system and increasing the endorphins and noradrenaline in the brain.
More scientific research needs to be researched and published to validate this cold water method, but I could understand how the shock of the temperature could affect your thinking. Feeling the cold water hit your skin could be a solution to stop your mind from racing and awakening you to being present and in the moment. Washing away the thoughts out of your mind.
Final Takeaway- Dealing with Overthinking
We have all experienced moments of getting lost in our thoughts. It’s completely normal, and there’s nothing wrong with thinking. It’s what makes us thoughtful human beings. But when these moments turn into an overwhelming episode that stops you from moving forward or taking action, that is when too much thinking is no longer helpful or productive. Too many thoughts can trap you into a state of overthinking, but I hope I was able to give you five useful ways to unlock yourself from these moments.