“I can't stop thinking about that one problem. Am I an overthinker?” Have you ever met anyone who was dealing with something and could simply switch off from that issue. Everyone worries from time to time. The right kind of a question is - when does my worrying turn into overthinking?
According to Aditi Surana, High performance coach and Founder of APT mental gym, overthinking as the word suggests is thinking in endless, meaningless and fairly useless loops. It either means remembering or rather reliving the disturbing memories over and over or incessantly imagining the worst possible future. Why did he say that? Did he mean that? Does that mean I will be asked to leave suddenly? What will I do if I lose this job? so on and so forth.
Keep reading as Aditi shares five tips to get over overthinking.
What happens when you start overthinking?
Now here is the problem - Your mind believes what you tell it to believe. For instance, Imagine - you walk into your kitchen. it’s a hot day. You are thirsty. You open your refrigerator. Reach out to the juiciest lemon that you find. Keep it on the kitchen counter. Take out a knife and cut through it. You can see the fresh lemon juice splashing around. and just like that you take that lemon and squeeze it in your mouth. The momentary brain freeze!
Did you feel any physical sensation? Any chills running your spine, saliva rushing in the mouth or the weird face your imagination reached the squeezing action? This happens simply because your mind believes in what you imagine. The body preprares to deal with it.
Overthinkers imagine the worst - from the past and in the future!
Things that lead to overthinking
Overthinking is about getting stuck in an uncontrollable loop. Any trigger can lead to this fearful bottomless pit. Here is the personal story of Aditi Surana:
"I remember getting sucked into one such loop for months. My father didn’t agree with my career choice and for the first time we had a real disagreement. Both of us were convinced of our views and we reached a point of no further discussion. One day in a heated argument he said - “If you do not want to respect my news, then you are on your own.” I was 18 and a half. Unlike any Indian father I have met, my dad asked to leave the house. I left home as I was convinced about my career choice. I dreamt of making India mentally fit. No matter how tough it got, I didn’t give in. I survived. However, after 4-5 years, I started getting stuck on that one memory of the day I left my home. Over and over. Every time I thought about it, I felt miserable. As vividly as if I was there in that house and reliving it. Then before I knew it, my mind would rush into the future.I began harboring the fear that my father would die without talking to me, which was a future possibility I imagined. I would imagine receiving a call from my mother and crying as if it was happening. Everything seemed so real. Every single time. I felt anxious & helpless."
If you are reading this article, then chances are that you have an overthinking loop like this. Let's follow a simple mental workout to break that loop.
1. Recognise it is a LOOP.
Have you heard your favorite song playlist on a loop? Once you start the playlist it follows the same sequence over and over until you stop it. right? The same thing happens with your overthinking loop. It plays automatically.
2. Break the loop at any cost!
Here is Aditi's favorite tool. It’s a physical technique that breaks your mental loops in moments. set aside just 5 mins and try out this ‘54321’ technique.
The ‘54321’ technique
1. Look For 5 Things You Can See
Look for 5 things that are in front of you and around you to count five things that you can see. And take your time to really acknowledge them. That is the first way of getting your body to observe and engage in your concepts.
2. Become Aware Of 4 Things You Can Touch
The next step is - things you can touch. Touch the fabric you’re wearing, or touch the smooth texture of your skin. Maybe keep your feet on the ground and feel the floor beneath you. Spend a moment literally touching these things and start thinking about them.
3. Acknowledge 3 Things You Can Hear
Even when you are sitting in the quietest room, you can still hear faint sounds. It may be the distant traffic or the voices in the next room. Don’t judge, just pay attention to the 3 things you can hear.
4. Notice 2 Things You Can Smell
We’re exposed to multiple fragrances. Try to find 2 things that you can smell. And to pay attention to those two things, you need to get up and look for them. It can be a bed sheet or a pen. You can even sense the subtle fragrance of the air around you, or of your own skin.
5. Become Aware Of 1 Thing You Can Taste
There is always a taste of an ingredient in your mouth that you can sense – maybe the taste of coffee or chocolate lingering on your tongue. Try to pay close attention to that.
Over to you
It may not look like but walking into and staying in that overthinking loop is a choice. If you are an overthinker then stop everything and seriously consider ‘handwritten journaling’. Set aside just 15 mins in a day to release your thoughts, emotions and the conundrum it creates.
Mental fitness is simple. Let's not wait for a breakdown. take out 15-20 mins a day to reset yourself mentally and emotionally.
Image credits- freepik