Anxiety therapist Chloe Brotheridge helps women to become calmer, happier and more confident. Here she shares five tips to stop you overthinking. Find out more at calmer-you.com.
Overthinking has been called the enemy of happiness; and for good reason. I wonder how many of you can relate to this scenario.
You're involved in an incident at work and just can't seem to get it out of your brain. You ruminate over the people involved and speculate about their thoughts and feelings, asking yourself, 'what if this had happened', or that had happened'. Your mind chews over all the things you could have done wrong, along with what you must do better in the future.
Finally, after all that mental exhaustion, you worry that you're overthinking, which leads you down a whole new rabbit hole of worries...
If this is something that plagues you, read on...
The problem with overthinking things is that it is seldom constructive. It's estimated that we have around 70,000 thoughts per day, 90% of which are the same thoughts as we had the day before.
This means rather than gaining new insights and solutions, we're churning over the same old worries and negative thought patterns. In order to break this habit and ensure that your thoughts are as constructive as they can be, create a 'worry time'.
A worry time is a 15-20 minute time slot each day which you solely devote to thinking and worrying about things. Use it to find constructive solutions to the things that you have the power to change, and while you're at it, pick out the things you can't control or change, and try to let them go.
If we follow a train of thought without any discrimination, we can end up miles away, down a pit of despair and wondering where the last half an hour went! The next time you find yourself doing it, say 'STOP!' to yourself, very loudly (in your own head if you're in public) and imagine a huge red, flashing stop sign. Some people like to clap their hands together as they do this to maximise the impact. (Obviously, not one for the office, unless you want to frighten your colleagues.)
Remind yourself that overthinking takes you on a train to no-where-good, and quickly find something else to do. Strike up a conversation with someone, begin an engaging task, read something or find another way to distract yourself.
Be Here, Now
Take a moment to really be here, where ever you are, in this exact moment. Notice the ground underfoot. The temperature of the air around you. Smell the smells around you and taste your food when you're eating. The more you tune into what's happening right now, the less you're stuck in your head.
Buddhists say this is the key to a calm mind; being in the present moment, without judging, resisting or analysing what's happening.
Easier said than done? Your ability to stay present in the moment is like a muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it gets. Practise when you're walking to work, eating a meal, doing the washing up or out running. Focusing on your breathing will have a similar mind-calming effect.
Write it down
Sometimes thoughts can feel like the mental equivalent of spaghetti junction at rush hour. But when they're written out in black and white they somehow seem easier to manage, more tangible and we can gain a clearer perspective. Think of it as a brain dump; those thoughts are better out than in, and if you've got no one to talk to, writing things down is the next best thing.
Start by writing a stream of consciousness; as a thought comes into your head, write it down. Keep writing until you run out of things to write. This can work well before bed if you have trouble switching off to go to sleep.
Schedule a meeting with yourself
Often taking time for ourselves to recharge batteries comes second to work, children and other responsibilities. We can all too easily forget that we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost before we can be in a fit state to help others. As they say on a plane, “secure your own oxygen mask first before helping anyone else.”
Schedule in time for yourself to reboot and relax; maybe a walk at lunchtime, an exercise class or a night off from the children. Treat it with the same importance as you would a meeting with your boss and remember, rest is just as important as activity.
If you suffer from anxiety, we will be discussing ways to help manage it at Stylist Live at 10.15 am on Sunday 18 October. We will be joined by alternative therapist, Jody Shield, who will talk through seven simple steps to manage anxiety.
If you suffer from depression, we will be speaking with happiness consultant, Samantha Clarke, on Saturday 17 October at 16.30
You can get tickets here.
Stylist Live four-day festival of cocktails, culture, catwalks and conversation hosted by Edith Bowman and Dawn O’Porter on Thursday 15 – Sunday 18 October 2015