This is a picture of me in Pelee Island. When l am in nature it keeps me grounded and stops me from overthinking and staying stuck in a negative thought pattern. “Overthinking, also, best known as creating problems that are never there” David Sikhosana
I have the bad habit of overthinking to the point that it leaves me exhausted and overwhelmed, even to make the simplest decision. Where does that critical over analytical voice come from, possibly from the judgement of others but often it is the critical voice inside my own head. Our view of the world is learned at an early age, this shapes how we think and in turn how we behave. It becomes our truth and this can become a hard habit to break. Your awareness of overthinking is key, its about questioning the thoughts your mind creates. Just because your mind creates a thought does not make it true. Often my overthinking keeps me awake at night and I have come to the conclusion that l can be my own worst enemy. The internal chatter or brain noise is what l often call it, keeps you stuck in a negative thought pattern making it difficult to make a decision.
When you overthink, your judgment get cloudy and your stress levels are elevated. When you spend too much time in the negative it can become difficult to act. When you feel stressed, whether you face a real threat or merely think that you are facing a threat, your body experiences a collection of changes known as your stress response, or your fight-or-flight response. It does not matter whether the stress is physical, mental or emotional; the adrenals glands interpret this as stress and releases cortisol.
Cortisol friend or foe…cortisol is a key adrenal hormone. It is also a key stress hormone. In small amounts cortisol has some positive affects on the body, it helps boost memory function and helps us function through out the day. The problem occurs when we are stuck in stress mode the body keeps producing too much cortisol. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream due to chronic stress have been shown to have negative effects. Too much stress affects us in so many ways and if ignored we will see a decline in our health.
The effects of excess cortisol and stress are:
. Brain fog, lack of focus, mood swings
• Dysglycemia (blood sugar swinging up and down)
• Morning and mid-afternoon fatigue (and overall fatigue)
• Sleep disruption – can’t get to sleep and/or waking up in the middle of the night and unable to fall back asleep
• Backaches and headaches
• Weight gain, especially around the middle
• Possible low testosterone and/or progesterone and excess estrogen
• Poor immune function
• Cravings for sweet or salty food
If this feels like familiar territory, here are 3 simple ideas to free yourself from overthinking and in in turn help reduce stress.
1. Awareness is the beginning of change.
Before you can begin to address or cope with your habit of overthinking, you need to learn to be aware of it when it’s happening. Any time you find yourself doubting or feeling stressed, step back and look at the situation and how you’re responding. In that moment of awareness is the seed of the change you want to make.
Talking it out with loved ones or a friend also helps you refocus and reframe the situation.
2. Distract Your Mind
Direct your attention elsewhere. Find a hobby, task or activity that engages your mind. When you do this, you allow yourself to put off overthinking and eventually those thoughts start to disappear.
Exercise can shut down the brain for a brief period of time so that you can relax without your stupid thoughts getting in the way.
Going for a walk is a good distraction. l love going for brisk walks with my Dog Macgregor and meeting all his doggy friends in the neighbourhood.
3. A change in environment
A change in environment really helps. Get outside or take a time out, it helps you to break the pattern.
A change can be something as simple as listening to your favourite song. l like Dancing Queen by Abba…just crank up the tunes and dance. Seriously……you won’t overthink when you are singing and grooving to your favourite tunes.
Go ahead and try these three simple techniques to stop the internal chatter and also to help reduce your stress when you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed.