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We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Breaking the Cycle: Tips for Overcoming Overthinking and Regaining Control of Your Thoughts

February 28, 2024

I have a bad habit of overanalyzing every area of my life, including but not limited to: conversations, hypothetical situations, upcoming activities, my appearance, my academic performance, and everything else. I am aware of this, and during my life, I have developed a few strategies to help me lessen the damaging consequences of excessive overthinking and worry. This is because these things were significantly negatively affecting my life, as shown by the fact that I was continuously anxious and unable to enjoy the moment. As a result, my mental health was suffering. 

For instance, if my supervisor's voice tone or messaging style changed, I would worry that I did something incorrectly and overthink the situation. Another example would be if someone told me that one of my works was excellent; in this situation, I would doubt whether the work was excellent or whether they were simply asserting that it was. I tend to assume that I did something wrong, that my friends or partners don't enjoy being in my company, or something similar when I go to work or notice that my friends' or lovers' attitudes have changed and they don't seem like their typical selves. 

You should be able to tell that I am the absolute definition of an overthinker just by looking at these few examples. Everyone experiences stress and has the propensity to overthink some situations, but when it reaches the point where your thoughts are in charge, you are unable to escape or reframe your thoughts; you are in a potentially dangerous situation and require assistance.

The following six recommendations made it easier to stop overanalyzing and overthinking every aspect of my life.

Recognize Overthinking

The first step to overcoming overthinking is to be aware of it. Start to notice when your thoughts become repetitive and unproductive. Common signs of overthinking include rumination, worrying, and self-doubt. If you have the same thoughts repeatedly without any resolution, or if your thoughts are preventing you from acting, you're likely overthinking. You speak out loud and pretend you're explaining your problem to a friend, and maybe this can help you get out of your head; another tip could be to write your thoughts down!

Reframe Your Thoughts

Whenever you find yourself stuck in a negative thought pattern, take a step back and try to reframe your thoughts. Focus on the positive aspects of the situation and try to see it from a different perspective.

Example:

Negative Thought: Your coworkers' attitude has changed. They look more stressed at work, hardly speak to you, and you worry if they're upset at you, don't like your company, etc.

Reframed Thought: I don't believe I have done anything I am aware of that has offended them. Not everyone will always be happy; some people have unpleasant days. I am not always the happiest at work since I can have personal stress, which can affect my demeanor. My coworker mentioned having financial difficulties last week, so I wonder whether that could be the issue.

You can see from this example that by changing your thinking, you could explain why their behaviour might have changed, absolve yourself of responsibility, and acknowledge that people have terrible days just like you do. My second piece of advice is to communicate; I lay a lot of emphasis on this.

Communicate

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Believe me when I say that if you simply communicate with others and talk to someone about the problem you are facing or overthinking, you can solve many problems. This is something that I have worked on and practiced over the years, and it is a skill that I cannot stop emphasizing. For instance, to return to the situation about the coworkers that were discussed earlier:

Example: 

You: Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I've noticed you look a little stressed out and down today and that you haven't been speaking to me or anyone else in general. I just wanted to check in and see how everything is doing. Have I said or done anything to make you angry? 

Coworker: Hello, I'm sorry; I didn't realize I wasn't speaking much or that I wasn't speaking to you. Thank you for checking in, and no, you have not done anything to irritate me. I apologize for making you overthink, but I have been having a difficult time in my personal life due to financial concerns, so I have been stressed and worrying about that; I apologize if I carried this issue into the job and made you overthink. But I assure you that you are not the problem.

It's obvious that in this case, after speaking with the person, you realized that their problems—and not yours—were the main issue. Your overthinking was instantly put to an end, and you could relax as soon as you understood the issue through communication. If you hadn't communicated, the situation might have worsened and taken over your thoughts. Returning to the second point, you could also absolve yourself of responsibility for the mental reorientation. It helps a lot to communicate.

Distract yourself 

 When you start feeling overwhelmed, take a few moments to leave the situation. Take a walk, practice deep breathing, or listen to calming music. Another example would be talking to a trusted friend, or family member can help you gain a different perspective on the situation. Talking can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Take a deep breath and reflect

First, take a deep breath and reflect. Reflect if this thought is in your control or out of your control; reflect if your overthinking will matter in a couple of hours, days, weeks, months, etc. Also, try to take action if it is bothering you. Another tip would be to practise mindfulness which can help you stay in the present moment and let go of the past and future. Try to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism.

Get Help

Lastly, if you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, seek professional Help. Talking to a therapist can help you to gain insight into your thoughts and feelings and develop more effective coping strategies.

Sources to help you:

Podcasts:

Articles:

 9 Therapist-Approved Tips for Reframing Your Existential Anxiety

 A psychotherapist shares the 3 exercises she uses every day ‘to stop overthinking’

14 Ways to Stop Overthinking