Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Overthinking, and what to do Instead

Overthinking is an annoying and time-consuming symptom of mental distress. It’s when you excessively worry about the same scenario or thought to the point of feeling out of control. Some experience the impacts of overthinking more severely than others, but at one point or another we have all experienced this. It’s a normal reaction typically brought on by the presence of a mental disorder such as anxiety and/or depression. Stress can also cause overthinking.

There are several things in life that can cause overthinking such as a career, sick loved ones, a breakup, a future event you feel unprepared for, or a past event where you feel you made a mistake. Overthinkers tend to dwell on the mistakes they’ve made and may feel the need or desire to control an outcome of a future event that only exists in their head.

For some of us, overthinking impacts life in a big way as it keeps us from performing certain tasks or we avoid certain situations. It makes us unproductive with work and puts strain on relationships. Overthinking causes a domino effect; one worry leads to another worry and so on.

As with most emotions, there are healthy ways to cope with overthinking, but there are also unhealthy ways to cope. 

Unhealthy way to cope

Forcing yourself to only focus on positive things

If you completely ignore the negative impact of overthinking on your mood and mental health, you’re not going to build your mental strength. Ignoring the negative can do more harm than good.

What to do instead

Take some time to meet your worries head on. Write them down if you have to and question them. What proof do you have that your worries are valid? If you can’t answer that then it’s likely you’re worrying for nothing. Regularly acknowledging when you’re overthinking and assessing why you may be, will build your mental strength and get you in control of your thoughts.

Unhealthy way to cope

Coming to terms with the worst-case scenario

More likely than not, the worst-case scenario you believe will happen is only in your imagination. You made it up in your head because accepting the worst possible outcome means no surprises. We can’t predict the future, and assuming the worst will only attract negativity to the situation.

What to do instead

There’s always another side to a story. So, try to think of some possible positive scenarios. Positive outcomes are just as likely as negative ones. So why not give them the same amount of attention?

Unhealthy way to cope

Isolating yourself

As an introverted homebody, I can appreciate the comforts of home and being alone. However, there’s a difference between enjoying the peace being alone can bring and just sitting alone staring at the walls worrying about every little thing. Purposely isolating yourself means more time to overthink and more time to stress yourself out worrying. 

What to do instead

Take yourself out where you can be alone in public such as going for a walk, window shopping, or reading at a library or bookstore. Or you can take yourself on a date doing something you love. Spending time with loved ones is a great way to distract yourself as well. Just make sure you’re enjoying your time with them and not just using them as a way to escape.

Unhealthy way to cope

Romanticizing the past

To romanticize something is to think it was better than it actually was. For an overthinker, a common scenario in this case could be a relationship. Maybe you’re overthinking the loss of a relationship you thought was good, but it really wasn’t. Maybe it brought more harm than good, but you dwell on the good times thinking it was all worth it. You think and think and think about what you did wrong to make things go south.

Other things can be romanticized too such as work, certain lifestyles, or even people.

What to do instead

Do a pro/con list to help you understand why you can’t let go of the past. Comparing the good to the bad will help put things in perspective. It’ll allow you to see the situation for what it really was. Be honest with yourself and take your time to ensure your list is thought out and accurate.

Unhealthy way to cope

Trying to control an outcome

As mentioned earlier in the post, some people who overthink worry so much to the point they feel the need to control an outcome. A lot of times the outcome we want to control is one we imagined. The downside to this is that we can’t predict an outcome in any situation and coming up with an imaginary scenario will only make overthinking worse. 

What to do instead

Think about what you actually have control over in the situation. What can you actually change? Let go of the idea that you can control everything and know that you can’t change people or future events. Focusing only on what you can change will lift some unnecessary weight off your shoulders!

You’re more than capable of controlling your thoughts, just remember it takes practice. And you have to be patient with yourself.

Is there a situation you’re currently overthinking? How are you handling it? There are more than just the above ways to cope with overthinking. I would love to hear your tips!

Until next time,

April at Choosing to Bloom

 

Sources

“How to Stop Overthinking: Tips and Coping Strategies.” Cleveland Clinic, 19 May 2022, health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-stop-overthinking/.

Wiest, Brianna. “7 Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms That Are Secretly Wreaking Havoc on Your Psyche.” Forbes, 13 Nov. 2018, http://www.forbes.com/sites/briannawiest/2018/11/13/7-unhealthy-coping-mechanisms-that-are-secretly-wreaking-havoc-on-your-psyche/?sh=4b14ebbd4575. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

3 responses to “Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Overthinking, and what to do Instead”

  1. Thank you for this post. I certainly struggle with overthinking things. Great and helpful ideas!

    1. Great read – espcially knowing it comes from the heart and your own personal experiences:) I can relate on so many levels – overthinking was a big part of my alcoholism (in recovery for almost 6 years now) and oh the worst case scenario feels – i still can go to worst case, but now I look at best case and know that it’s usually in the middle – ACCEPTANCEis now my solution….

  2. Love the site. Thanks for sharing all of this! 😁

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: