These thoughtful quotes will get you out of your head
Overthinking is a maladaptive strategy for dealing with fear. You overanalyze a problem to the point where it’s useless and can even be harmful, says Shelly Smith-Acuña, PhD, professor and dean of the graduate school of professional psychology at the University of Denver. It’s tempting because it feels like you’re doing something, but you risk getting caught in a loop of negative thoughts and anxiety, she says.
The problem with overthinking
When it comes to thinking about a problem, balance is key, Smith-Acuña says. Think too little, and you make uninformed choices, overthink and risk ‘paralysis from analysis’. (Here’s how to make better decisions.)
“Whatever it feels like, overanalyzing doesn’t promote problem solving,” she says, adding that overthinking can actually cause more problems. “Doing this can amplify feelings of danger, escalate your anxiety, and disrupt sanity,” she says.
How do you know if you’re thinking too much?
How do you know if you’ve crossed the line from careful consideration to destructive thinking? There are a few signs to look for, Smith-Acuña says.
You are brooding. Overthinking often leads to rumination, where you can’t stop thinking about something even though you know you need to focus on other things.
You can’t make a decision. Overthinking is not problem solving, and it rarely leads to making a decision one way or another.
You doubt yourself. Even when a solution is agreed, overthinking leads to more overthinking, and it often doesn’t stop when a strategy or plan develops. You may find that you are still talking about the problem in your head, even though it has been “fixed.”
Others say you are. Sometimes you don’t see it in yourself, so it’s important to listen when a loved one points out that you’re worrying too much about a problem.
How to stop overthinking?
The first step to stopping this behavior is recognizing when you’re getting into a negative pattern, Smith-Acuña says. A little worrying is normal and healthy. The trick is to find the balance. (Find inspiration to feel better in these self-care quotes.)
“Adaptive concern alerts you to dangers and threats, clarifies the problem, can lead you to seek help or more information from others, and then help you solve the problem,” she explains.
If your thinking doesn’t lead to any of those things, then you’ve probably crossed the line and it’s time to take action. Meditation, distraction, and staying busy are some ways to stop overthinking. (Here’s how to tap into your intuition.)
To distract you from your worries, help you get out of your own head, and feel less alone, here are some of the best thoughtful quotes.
Fear: Breakfast of champions
“If I think too much about calories burned, I’d be a supermodel.” – Anonymously
Some of us think so much that we practically turn it into an Olympic sport. If that sounds familiar, you may have a high-functioning anxiety.
A little thinking is good
“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader
No one tells you to make decisions on a whim, but there’s a lot of middle ground between following a hasty impulse and overthinking it.
Imagine a happy result
“Worrying about how things will go wrong won’t help things go right.” — Karen Salmansohn, self-help author
Not only do overthinking situations keep them from going well, but your negative thoughts can increase your chances of things going wrong and make your anxiety worse.
Most decisions are not that important
“If you treat every situation as a matter of life and death, you will often die.” — Dean Smith, University of North Carolina basketball coach
Try the 5-5-5 trick: Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five days? Five months? Five years?” Your answers can help you put your concerns into perspective.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” — Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist
If you are in a bad situation, consider taking the opposite stance. For example, if you’ve been thinking about a decision and discover that you’ve made the wrong choice or too late, consider trying again, but without over-analyzing it. Sometimes we need a different approach than thinking about it more deeply. (Here are ways to reformulate your thoughts that could change your life.)
Still it feels like doing something
“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.” — Erma Bombeck, author
It can be hard to accept that there’s nothing you can do about a situation that’s upsetting you, but worrying about it won’t help. Instead, try these mindfulness tips that can help you stay present in the moment while you wait.
It’s all little things
Rule number one is don’t worry about the little things. Rule number two is: it’s all little things.” — Robert Eliot, MD, cardiologist and author of Is it worth dying for?
Worrying can be okay if you do it in a balanced, healthy way. (Here’s how to know when to worry and how to do it the right way.)
Keep your focus to yourself
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just put the first step.” — Martin Luther King, Jr., US Secretary and leader in the civil rights movement
Sometimes it just takes a little creative thinking to get you out of overthinking. Try to look at your problem differently, and focus on what you do have under control: the next step to take.
“Overthinking: the art of creating new problems from problems that never existed.” – Anonymously
One of the biggest problems with overthinking is that it tends to cause even more trouble than what you started worrying about. When you come across a situation that you don’t understand, you may make up a story to explain it, but that story may not be true and may cause more worry and anxiety. If that sounds familiar, try these top therapist tricks for dealing with anxiety.
Overthinking Can Harm Your Mental Health
“I think and think and think. I’ve pulled myself out of luck a million times, but never once.” – Jonathan Safran Foer, American novelist
Rumination leads to anxiety and depression, so learning how to short-circuit overthinking is one way to protect your mental health.
Stuck in a thought loop
“If you’ve had a lifetime of overthinking, you’ll have the same reaction time and time again.” — Joel Annesley, life coach
Anxiety, shyness and negative thoughts about yourself can become a habit if you think too much. “When you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, you want to back off by default and hide. You watch, but you don’t participate. You listen but don’t respond. You read, but rarely comment. You take a picture, but rarely post. You write, but rarely publish. This is all because your pondering mind can’t stop thinking about how you will be perceived by the outside world,” explains Annesley.
(If you like these exaggerated quotes, you’ll love these balance quotes too.)
Make room for good
“The best things happen when you don’t think about it.” — Ben Zobrist, professional baseball player
Letting go of your worries and control can feel scary in the moment, but sometimes spontaneity can lead to the best experiences.
Too much of something is a problem
“One who thinks too much is also one who loves too much.” – Anonymously
Overthinking can lead to over-acting, which can have its own negative consequences. Even something positive, like showing love to someone, can become overwhelming if you do it too much.
“I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s better to work with a crazy schedule. It gives me less time to think about things and forces me to be present.” — Torrey DeVitto, actress
One of the most powerful antidotes to overthinking is to stay busy. Focusing on something positive and productive prevents your mind from being sucked into a vortex of worry. (Staying busy is also one of the best tips for avoiding emotional eating.)
Go with your feeling
“The more you think, the less you understand.” — Habeeb Akande, writer and historian
Relying solely on your knowledge to solve a problem can cause you to think too much. Instead, get out of your own head and consult with others, read a book, or learn to tap into your intuition.