How can I stop overthinking everything?

How one young woman learnt to control her thought processes

Mental health and wellbeing
By Parent Zone ·
image: allvision/stock.adobe.com

Louise (not her real name)

Young author

“The more illogical my thoughts, the more worried I was about sharing them”

A load of people overthink. Some do it a lot, others do it occasionally and a lucky few never do it at all!

Whether it’s a few minor things or seemingly everything in our daily life, it can really start to accumulate.

In my own experience, it became particularly tiring from around age 17 onwards and, with little assistance from schools on how to deal with it, the issue began to snowball.

But, even though it has become a part of who I am, I have learnt to control my thought process, which has been one of the most important things I have done. Having a clear mind, and being content, is such a game changer and I now have a strong and powerful voice that speaks sense to the uglier side of my mind when it starts misbehaving.

At my lowest point, wherever I was or whatever I thought, my mind began to convince itself that not only was the worst scenario possible, but it was inevitable. This became really draining as a lot of my energy was spent battling my own thoughts, most of which were completely irrational.

Luckily, my job is extremely fast paced, which seemed to help as there was really no time for my mind to wander but, of course, if something went wrong, I would always expect the worst to happen (which it never did).

Growing up, I loved flying. However, now I try to sleep as much as possible when I fly, to minimise the time awake to panic about where, or how high, I am.

Lifts became a huge fear, as did small and compact spaces including tube trains, which doesn’t help with the commute!

Whilst these seem like normal worries, and they are, I became irrational too. The more illogical my thoughts became, the more worried I was about sharing them for fear of the embarrassment of being exposed.

Having a bath would no longer be as peaceful as it once was as I worried the tub would fall through the floor into my neighbours’ living room below. I would become uneasy walking past skyscrapers, panicking that maybe the foundations were not as solid as they appeared. Driving became a straight up nightmare.

The list goes on... it really became exhausting. They seem ridiculous even to me but that didn’t stop my brain from thinking them.

As with all psychological hurdles, they differ between people and it is only through trial and error that solutions become clearer.

You will have heard the saying ‘you are your own worst enemy’ and this really makes sense – it’s important to take back control of your thoughts and, in doing so, stop any issues before they arise in the first place.

In my own battle vs my mind, there are a few things that have really helped in keeping my thoughts clear and never allowing that snowball to begin its destructive path…

For me, my boyfriend is more helpful than he probably realises – he is naturally a chilled person whose mind doesn’t run away with him. For the past five years when I have communicated my worries to him, he has been the voice of reason, helping me to understand that a lot of the time there is really no need to be worrying at all.

There are times when I feel that my constant worrying can be a burden on our relationship and I become so frustrated. But I have come to understand that it’s important to accept that everyone is different. Sharing how I feel with him, instantly makes me feel better. Gaining a new perspective to problems and thoughts is invaluable. At the end of it all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Exercising your body is talked about a lot with regard to mental health and rightfully so. I hate queuing for the gym before or after work and get bored going for runs, so I have found other forms of exercise that I enjoy - dance lessons and tennis. Even something like a short walk in the fresh air really helps me; it doesn’t always need to be an intense gym workout or a marathon run. Bodies release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that, in the short term, improve your mood and, in the long run, reduce stress and other worries.

Exercising your brain with a hobby or activity is also hugely beneficial, which is something I have fully understood only recently, since the lockdown began.The beauty of the internet is that the resources available to us are endless.

I have picked up a subject that I have always been interested in and done a free short course. I’m teaching myself a language and being my own teacher means that I go at my own pace and learn as much or as little vocab as I want each day. I also read a lot – as much as I possibly can every day and a wide variety of books.

Another thing that worked really well with my overthinking problem was to pick up astronomy. I didn’t study it at university, nor was I ever a scientist at school. However, it interests me and it involves me using my brain in a way I don’t otherwise do during the day.

Learning about the vastness of what surrounds us and the exceptional circumstances under which mankind has managed to survive on earth brings my mind into a clearer head space by putting everything into perspective.

Why is stressing about mundane daily worries taking up valuable time in my thoughts when our existence is so exceptional and life is such a gift?