8. Managing Overthinking & Worry

Overthinking & rumination
Overthinking happens to the best of us at some stage throughout our lives. Some could be considered productive. Reflecting on our past actions allows us to grow. Yet constant critical reflection, also termed rumination, is a significant contributor to mood and anxiety disorders. Constant analysis of our past encourages us to become hypervigilant of how we may behave in the future. This hypervigilance is also referred to as worrying. Worry is rooted in our uncertainty of future experiences. We feel a level of vulnerability.

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Worrying
A worry is a negative prediction of the future. We can worry about actual problems within or lives or we can have worries about potential problems.  I can worry about my unwell family member or I can worry about holding down a relationship I haven’t even started yet. Just as a little reflection is optimal for personal development, worry is too. Worry drives us to achieve and succeed. However, the level of worry is a key indicator of our mental state. If you are one that constantly worries then I suggest you book in with your GP to discuss this.

The biology
When we constantly worry about something, we are training our brain to CONTINUE to think about it. Thus, giving ourselves permission to worry about this one situation, and in turn, worry about every other possible situation. This results in higher levels of amygdala activation. When we are constantly thinking about any situation (past or future) we are producing a stress response within our bodies. In our sympathetic nervous system our fight or flight response is triggered, leading to the release of cortisol. This is what is seen in anxiety disorders- the constant release of cortisol which can create the basis for adrenal fatigue.

BE PRESENT
Whether your thoughts are centred around the past or future they fail to acknowledge the present moment. Try allowing yourself to live in the moment. You can’t change the past. You can influence the future. You have choices in this life. So CHOOSE not to become your thoughts. Live in the NOW You are more powerful than your thoughts. ALWAYS remember that.

TECHNIQUES

Thought Downloading:
When I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed in my thoughts this is my go to! I find I’ll go from “I’m really tired” to “am I on the right path in life” in about 2 minutes.

  1. Get a pen and paper. Limit distractions- phone on silent!
  2. Stare at the paper.
  3. As a thought comes into your mind WRITE IT DOWN.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Do this until you struggle to think of anything else. Breathe.
  6. Notice your mind is clearer.

Worry Time:
This one is for all of you that worry more than you should. You set aside a period at the end of the day to worry. When you begin to worry throughout the day tell yourself “no. Stop. It isn’t worry time yet.” This trains our brains to worry only in a set time limit. You will find that by the end of the day half the things you originally wanted to incorporate in your worry time will no longer feel relevant.