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5 Tips to Breaking the Pattern of Overthinking.

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

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How to Stop Yourself From Spiraling Down the Rabbit Hole

We've all been there, right?

Well, I know I have been.

Perhaps we let a thought wander a little too far, and now it has taken over our lives.

Maybe something happened, and we keep replaying it in our heads.

Possibly we said something we shouldn’t, and now we have come up with every possible assumption that our communicative counterpart may be feeling about us.

Whatever it may be, it’s tormenting you to the point that you may even be losing sleep, overreacting to loved ones, or not able to focus on simple tasks.

Overthinking is a dangerous and self-destructive activity, but there is a way out.

Have you ever had a rumor spread about you? I have, and not just on one occasion.

Over the years, I have experienced being misrepresented many times, but I really let the rumors get to me on one particular occasion. These rumors had to do with my character. The things being said were so far from the truth it wasn't funny. To me, this was a great injustice, and I allowed my thoughts to run rampant, taking hold of my mind every second of the day for weeks. Thoughts consumed my every waking hour 'how unfair, and awful what that person had done was.' It plagued me to think that people actually were believing these lies. I felt so misrepresented, and I had to do something about it. The trouble was that by trying to prove the rumors wrong and being so distressed and worked up about it, my character became even more in question. I wasn't justifying myself or proving myself to be any better; I was only making it worse.

After some time passed, I began to focus my attention elsewhere and determined that this did not define me. It didn't matter what was being said; my true character spoke for its self. Eventually, the lie would be exposed, and the rumor would subside. Well, that is precisely what happened, the truth became evident, and the person that spread the rumor became someone others didn't trust.

How we respond to these situations is based on our unique perspectives, beliefs, and past experiences. Luckily, we all have complete control over our minds. We get to choose what we focus on and how we respond to every situation in our life.

Would you like to know how I stopped the cycle of overthinking from tormenting me any further?

Well, keep reading!

Tip #1 Consider what triggers your overthinking? Where is it coming from?

What triggers your overthinking?

Awareness is the first key to determining why you tend to overthink about particular circumstances. This means really understanding what triggers your emotions to cause ‘rabbit hole’ thinking. I bet if you take a look at the last five things that triggered your ‘rabbit hole,’ you will find a common denominator. Perhaps there are:

Certain words that trigger you.

Possibly certain circumstances.

A particular tone of voice that rubs you the wrong way.

Do you tend to say the wrong thing when you’re nervous?

Are you anxious in social situations?

Does it bother you when you feel judged?

Are you intimidated by certain types of people?

My common denominator was being misrepresented. What is yours?

Where does it stem from?

Understanding what triggers your overthinking can help you to identify where the trigger comes from. This will enable you to recognize these triggers as they start so that you can get control over them by identifying the root cause. Once we know the root, we begin to see that we respond to current events with past baggage. Our response isn't based on what is happening but rather on how it reminds us of what has already happened.

This, my friend, is the beginning of freedom from overthinking!

Tip #2 Look at the big picture

Overthinking can lead to tunnel vision. We get so focussed on the minute details that we fail to see the bigger picture. When we focus at this level, everything feels much more substantial and weighted. We can pick apart our every action or the actions of others so much so that one small behavior becomes larger than life. This little detail can consume us to no end.

When we step back and look at everything inclusively, the little things tend not to feel so big anymore. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Regardless of what was said, did the conversation have an outcome?

  • Maybe the reaction you got wasn't what you wanted, but did you consider that maybe there were other circumstances at play?

  • If someone acted in a way that hurt you, did you stop to think about what they actually may have meant to do?

  • Do you believe their action was intentional?

  • Was what you said what they heard?

Remember, there are always two sides to everything, sometimes even more, depending upon the parties involved.

You know how we discussed triggers and responses based on where the trigger stems from tip # 1? Well, everyone responds based on their own experiences. Perhaps they were triggered too.

Tip #3 Realize that perfection is unattainable

Give yourself a break. Not one of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all fall short; no matter how put together someone may seem, everyone has their own junk in the end. Perfection is a trap, dear one. Set yourself and everyone free from it.

There isn't a person on the planet that hasn't said the wrong thing, acted strange, reacted poorly, or looked like a fool. We are all just human beings. We are all learning and living. Part of the process of learning to communicate authentically is messing up, getting it wrong. The important part is to cut ourselves and others some slack.

Tip #4 It’s all about perspective

What does it look like from the outside?

Now that you have an idea of your triggers and where they stem from, and you can see situations and circumstances from a big picture perspective, let's take a look at alternative viewpoints. Just as you, everyone has a past. There are going to be similarities and differences. On occasion, we may come across perspectives we simply disagree with and others that we see eye to eye on. This is life, living among over 7 billion individuals, all with a different past, different neuro connections, different struggles, different views, and different pain points. We as a people are a vast but beautiful mess. If you can open up just enough to see someone for who they are, what they are really going through, and give each other a bit of mercy, you will be liberated.

  • Stop to consider that they might just be having a bad day, and you were the first one in their path.

  • Maybe, you misunderstood them entirely; different perspectives mean different approaches to things.

  • What might be going on beneath the surface?

There is a story I heard many years ago. I do not remember the source so forgive me for not giving adequate credit; it is simply the story I remember.

A father was sitting with his children on a flight. The children were loud, a bit obnoxious, and seemingly unruly. After a few hours, perhaps only moments, an older gentleman approached this man. The gentleman was stern and obviously put out with the behavior of the children and the lack of parenting by the father. He stood over the father, ready, and said roughly, "sir, could you please get some control over your children!" The father looked up with tear-filled dark eyes and said, "I am so sorry, I just lost my wife. My kids and I are flying back to be with family, and I don't think they understand what this means." The gentleman immediately began to regret his disdain and, after apologizing, immensely walked back to his seat.

You see, we really have no way of actually knowing what others are going through. Your anger or frustration just might turn into something different if you truly had a glimpse into the lives of others. I think it's fairly safe to say that not one of us intentionally decides 'I will go to work to have a completely miserable day and destroy other people's lives in the process.' We are all products of circumstances. Next time consider there may be more at play than you can see.

Tip #5 Focus on the positive

What was good about what happened?

Let's take a closer look at what happened. So what? You said the wrong thing, and now you feel silly. Maybe you're worried about what they might think of you.

What else happened besides the thing that you're overthinking?

  • Did the conversation end on a positive note?

  • What if they are relieved to know that other people are just like them.

  • It could have been a close friend, in which case they know you and love you; the little thing may need to be addressed and then forgotten.

  • Was it your boss? Make an appointment to sit down and discuss what happened, maybe something triggered you to respond in a certain way, and you could apologize and explain it.

  • Was it a stranger? The chances of them worrying about something you did are very slim; most likely, they are overthinking how they came across.

Bonus tip!!!

Focus on the opposite…

If what you said bothers you, think about what they said. If how you acted bothers you, think about the good things you did.

If your only thinking about how you feel, think about how they might feel.

If they were the one that said or did something that hurt you, is there possibly something that you did that offended them. If so, go back and make it right.

Are you worried that you looked like a fool? How do you think they were feeling? What do you think someone who was observing the interaction thought?

Now go and love on people! Give them the freedom to make mistakes; allow yourself to make mistakes. If you wronged someone, make it right. If someone wronged you, talk to them rationally. Don't allow your mind to create scenarios and assumptions. You'll never honestly know unless you ask. Own up to who you are, and let others do the same.

If you'd like help overcoming the spiraling rabbit hole, I'd like to make you an offer!

Click here to schedule your free one on one strategy session with me.

And don't forget to tell me all about it!

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