Imagine having an off switch for your over-active mind…
Imagine each time you found yourself slipping down the overthinking rabbit hole you could just hit the stop button…
How would that feel?
Ok sure, no such button exists (sorry), but it is within your power to decide how much control and influence these thoughts have over your life. I’ll explain…
When negative thoughts arise or we can’t stop thinking about something, it’s common to want to push those thoughts away.
Often, they don’t make you feel good and it’s popular these days to always try to think positive.
However the more and more you try to push them away, the faster and harder the pesky little critters tend to spring back!
Granted, if you try hard enough to distract yourself and stay super busy, it may feel like you are winning the thought war; however, it is not sustainable.
In fact, sometimes we can get so caught up in avoiding the things we don’t want to think or feel, we end up engaging in other unhelpful activities that create a whole new set of problems to think about!
During particularly emotional times, you may try to keep yourself busy, filling your days with lots of different tasks and activities.Unfortunately, it’s not possible to be busy 24/7 – you have to sleep sometime!
And it’s in those quiet moments, when you’re exhausted, that these thoughts start to seep back in and you can end up feeling overwhelmed with all the things you’ve worked so hard to avoid.
The truth is you cannot gain control of your thoughts simply by ignoring them or pushing them away – it just doesn’t work! And sadly, negative thoughts and emotions are part of life.
Thankfully there are some things you can do to help you to stop overthinking and start taking control of your thoughts. Here are my top tips:
1. Stop avoiding your uncomfortable thoughts and emotions
Rather than avoiding these negative thoughts and emotions and waiting for them to hit you at your lowest moments when you are exhausted, choose to face them head-on.
Make some time to get curious and explore what these thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you.
The way I like to do this is to use the feelings wheel by Dr Julia Willcox (which you can find on google), to help me to identify exactly how I’m feeling. I then use the following journal prompts to help me to explore them further –
It’s important to remember that there are no right or wrong ways of doing this. The key point is that you choose when to think about these things rather than letting your thoughts decide for you.
2. Recognise your thoughts for what they are.
Each thought is simply a mental act, in the same way, that waving your hand is a physical act.
Thoughts themselves don’t actually mean anything; it’s our interpretation of the thought that gives it meaning.
In the same way that waving could mean many different things – hello, goodbye, go away, come here, help etc, so too can your thoughts.
3. Challenge your interpretation of your thoughts.
In the book ‘Loving What Is’ by Byron Katie she outlines a process for questioning your thoughts –
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know 100% that it is true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
A few additional questions from me –
- What else could be true?
- What would be a more useful thought to have?
People try so hard to let go of their negative behaviours and thoughts, and it doesn’t work, or it works only for a short time. I didn’t let go of my negative thoughts; I questioned them, and then they let go of me, and so did my addictions and depression
4. Understand how they are impacting your life.
Your thoughts create your feelings. Your feelings create your actions. Your actions create the results and outcome that you get. They all interact and impact one another. So if you aren’t happy with the results you are getting, there’s a good chance your thoughts have something to do with it!
5. Become aware of your ‘thinking errors’
‘Thinking errors’ can skew our perceptions and keep us stuck. Listed below are some of the common patterns of thinking that you might fall in too. These patterns cause and maintain low mood and anxiety.
Black & White Thinking
This is also known as ‘all or nothing’ thinking, whereby you tend to think in extremes. For example, a situation can either be brilliant or awful; you can either be lovely or horrible; you are either perfect or the worst person ever.
This is, as it sounds, thinking the worst or imagining a catastrophic outcome during seemingly everyday ‘normal’ experiences.
Mind-reading refers to thoughts where you predict (or assume) others’ responses or thoughts and make it fact. For example, ‘I fell over in the street and everyone was looking at me thinking I was an idiot’.
Disqualifying The Positive
This refers to the way you dismiss or belittle positive achievements or experiences and not recognise your own role in these. For example, ‘I only passed my driving test because the examiner felt sorry for me’, or ‘I was lucky to get that promotion’.
This kind of thinking usually only affects the positive, meaning we take the blame for the negative events in our lives but dismiss the positive.
This is when you see the world through a negative or anxious filter, e.g. you are unable to see the positive or good things that happen around you – your mind focuses only on the negative events or news.
What thinking errors most resonate with you? All change starts with awareness so over the next few weeks start to recognise when you are slipping into these patterns and then repeat steps 1-3 above.
6. Understand how your thoughts and emotions are like clouds in the sky
If you look up at the sky right now, and then again in a few hours time, it will look different. The sky is always changing, just like our emotional wellbeing.
Thoughts and feelings are not permanent. They aren’t part of you. You are the backdrop for them like the sky is the backdrop for the clouds.
A mantra I like to use when I’m feeling rubbish is ‘this too shall pass’ – so if you just acknowledge that you feel rubbish and simply give it some time, you will feel different.
If you’d like some help to get unstuck, stop overthinking and feel a sense of control over your life why not book a free 45-minute call to explore how I can help. There will be no slimy sales patter, just you, me and a cuppa, getting to know one another. You can book a call by hitting the button below.