In this blog post, we will try to answer the question ‘Why do I overthink life?’ by looking at the causes for overthinking. We will also look at the signs of overthinking, the effects of overthinking, and how to stop overthinking.
Why do I overthink life?
Overthinking is a common issue. People usually say “I can’t relax. It’s like my brain won’t shut off,” or “I can’t stop thinking about how my life could have been better if I’d done things differently.”
It’s an annoying habit that’s undoubtedly a waste of time, not to mention unhealthy.
“It’s the process of constantly analyzing and anguishing over one’s thoughts. It may include rumination, in which an individual is stuck mentally rehashing their past or present decisions or actions.”
According to various psychologists, the common causes for overthinking are self-esteem issues; concern about repeating past patterns in relation to prior bad experiences; traumatic experiences; or anxiety.
Anxiety and stress are the most common causes of overthinking. Anxiety is typically a response to fear — a fear of what might come. Its primitive purpose is to keep us alerted to dangers that pose a threat to our survival. illness, death, financial distress, and the uncertainty of it all, pose a threat to our survival leading to overthinking.
Trauma is another potential cause of overthinking. Neuroscience tells us that trauma, like childhood abuse or neglect, for example, can actually alter the development of the brain to become stuck in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. In other words, our flight-fight-or-freeze response stays on high alert, scanning for any possible danger — whether real or perceived. In this state, we may experience obsessive or intrusive thoughts.
Low self-esteem is an essential cause of overthinking. People afraid of judgment worry about the things they said in a social gathering or things they did on a date or at work. Anxious people may focus on future worries about things they can’t control like whether they’ll get sick or die. Someone with low self-esteem may ruminate on whether people like them or whether their partner will leave them.
Sings you overthink life
Below is a list of signs to understand if you overthink life.
- Reliving embarrassing moments in your head repeatedly.
- Having trouble sleeping because it feels like your brain won’t shut off.
- Asking yourself a lot of “what if…” questions.
- Spending a lot of time thinking about the hidden meaning in things people say or events that happen.
- Rehashing conversations you had with people in your mind and think about all the things you wished you had or hadn’t said.
- You constantly relive my mistakes.
- When someone says or acts in a way you don’t like, you keep replaying it in your mind.
- Sometimes you are not aware of what’s going on around you because you dwell on things that happened in the past or worrying about things that might happen in the future.
- You spend a lot of time worrying about things you have no control over.
- You can’t get your mind off your worries.
Overthinking comes in two forms: ruminating about the past and worrying about the future.
Overthinking is completely different from problem-solving and self-reflection. Problem-solving involves thinking about a solution. Healthy self-reflection is about learning something about yourself or gaining a new perspective about a situation. It’s purposeful. Whereas overthinking is dwelling on the past and beating yourself for the things you have done or not.
Effects of overthinking
Have you felt the above-mentioned signs of overthinking? If you have, then they might have taken a toll on you after a while.
Overthinking can have dramatic effects on your life. It can affect both the mental and physical health of a person.
Here is a list of impacts overthinking can have on you.
- It may shorten your lifespan.
Harvard Medical school conducted a study on 60-70-year old’s brains vs 100+-year-old’s and found that those who died at a younger age had significantly lower levels of a protein that quiets brain activity. Extra thinking causes excess brain activity, which depletes the protein. This does not mean that by overthinking you’ll spontaneously die at age 30 but overexerting the brain can have unintended effects that you might not have known about until now.
- You get less and worse quality sleep.
Sometimes, late at night, you can’t help but worry about upcoming events or overanalyze aspects of your life. Anxious thoughts take your body out of its resting state, making you more alert and awake. This leads to tossing and turning while trying to sleep only to get poor quality sleep. And, if you don’t sleep well, you have less energy causing a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
- It affects your body’s chemical balance.
Constantly focusing and building on hypothetical negative thoughts make your brain less able to differentiate between hypothetical stress and stress that needs to be acted upon. This chemical imbalance can damage your brain’s structures that regulate emotions, memory, and feelings.
- You’re more prone to developing mental illnesses.
A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2013 found that overthinking your faults, mistakes, and problems increases your risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Overanalyzing harm your mental health, which then leads to more overthinking fueling another vicious cycle.
- Your appetite might fluctuate.
You may not feel like eating at all, or, more commonly, you might eat more as a coping mechanism. Stress or worry eating comfort foods could help soothe or distract you from overthinking, but it’s ultimately not a healthy way to deal with overthinking. Often eating comfort foods in large quantities proves to be harmful to the body, which in turn harms all aspects of your health.
- You have less creativity.
Neurologists from Stanford conducted a study where they hooked brain imaging equipment up to participants who were then asked to draw a series of images ranging from easy to difficult ones. Difficult images are harder to draw, so it’s only natural that they require more thought. The researchers found that the drawings of harder images were less creative and vice versa with easier images to draw being more creative. Contrary to popular belief that overthinking can help you create new solutions, thinking too much may stunt your creativity.
- It affects your social skills.
When we spend more time negatively speculating what others think of us, it often creates fear and avoidance of social situations. Imagine all the times you’ve thought that someone does or will dislike you, so you never talk to them. You might miss out on a lot of social opportunities and friends by assuming how people think of you. More often than not, it’s overthinking that makes you act that way and not the person themselves.
How to stop overthinking?
We know that overthinking is a common issue among both teenagers and adolescents which has its own ill effects.
Given the ill effects mentioned above, it is important the people try to control this pesky habit and lead a better life.
Here are a few simple things you can do to stop overthinking.
- Awareness is the beginning of change.
Before you can begin to address or change 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 or anxious, step back and look at the situation from the whole and how you’re responding. In that moment of awareness is the seed of the change you want to make. Once you realize something is wrong, you can change it.
- Look at the positives
Don’t think of what can go wrong, but what can go right. In many cases, overthinking is caused by fear. When you focus on all the negative things that might happen, it’s easy to become paralyzed. Visualize all the things that can go right and keep those thoughts present and upfront.
- Distract yourself into happiness.
Don’t give your brain the power to think of the same things. Distract yourself by engaging in things like mediation, dancing, exercise, learning an instrument, knitting, drawing, and painting. This distance you from the issues enough to shut down the overanalysis.
- Dont catastrophize the events
It’s always easy to make things bigger and more negative than they need to be. The next time you make a mountain out of a molehill, think of how much it will matter in five years. Just this simple question, changing up the time frame, can help shut down overthinking.
- Stop waiting for perfection.
This is important. For all of us who are waiting for perfection, we can stop waiting right now. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical, and debilitating. The moment you start thinking “This needs to be perfect” is the moment you need to remind yourself, “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”
- Change your view of fear.
Whether you’re afraid because you’ve failed in the past, or you’re fearful of trying or overgeneralizing some other failure, remember that just because things did not work out before does not mean that has to be the outcome every time. Remember, every opportunity is a new beginning, a place to start again.
- Put a timer to work.
Give yourself a boundary. Set a timer for five minutes and give yourself that time to think, worry, and analyze. Once the timer goes off, spend 10 minutes with a pen and paper, writing down all the things that are worrying you, stressing you, or giving you anxiety. Let it rip. When the 10 minutes is up, throw the paper out and move on–preferably to something fun.
- Realize you can’t predict the future.
No one can predict the future; all we have is now. If you spend the present moment worrying about the future, you are robbing yourself of your time now. Spending time in the future is simply not productive. Spend that time instead of things that give you joy.
- Accept your best.
The fear that grounds overthinking is often based on feeling that you aren’t good enough–not smart enough or hardworking enough or dedicated enough. Once you’ve given an effort your best, accept it as such and know that, while success may depend in part on some things you can’t control, you’ve done what you could do.
- Be grateful.
You can’t have a regretful thought and a grateful thought at the same time, so why not spend the time positively? Every morning and every evening, make a list of what you are grateful for. Get a gratitude buddy and exchange lists so you have a witness to the good things that are around you.
Overthinking is something that can happen to anyone. A study from the University of Michigan found that 73% of 25-35-year-olds and 52% of 45-55-year-olds overthink. It’s a common, human thing to do, nevertheless, it’s easy to get lost in negative thoughts and hypotheticals. But if you have a great system for dealing with it you can at least ward off some of the negative, anxious, stressful thinking and turn it into something useful, productive, and effective.
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In this blog post, we have tried to answer the question ‘Why do I overthink life?’ by looking at the causes for overthinking. We have also looked at the signs of overthinking, the effects of overthinking, and how to stop overthinking.
FAQs: Why do I overthink life?
What is overthinking a sign of?
Overthinking is usually linked to anxiety and depression. Although it is challenging to understand, which causes what, just like the egg and chicken conundrum. Overthinking is seen to decline the mental health of a person.
Are overthinkers Intelligent?
A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that Constant rumination could be a sign of intelligence. worrying, a common habit of overthinkers is correlated to verbal intelligence.