You can overcome many challenges when you take the time to assess them and strategise a course of action. However, thinking about a problem can do more harm than good if it takes up too much of your time and energy. If you constantly fixate on your thoughts and find that it’s stopping you from enjoying life, you may be mentally stuck.
People who find themselves feeling mentally stuck are usually overthinkers. Overthinking is often mistaken for problem-solving, but they’re two very different things. Problem-solving involves asking the right questions to find a solution. On the other hand, overthinking focuses on possible scenarios or mistakes without an action plan. In other words, problem-solving resolves issues while overthinking dwells on hypotheticals.
Overthinking can be detrimental to your mental health. When your brain is constantly preoccupied with thoughts—especially negative ones—it can be difficult to relax and have fun. In fact, research shows that overthinkers are more likely to experience depression or anxiety. Hence, it’s important to know the common signs of overthinking to prevent them from manifesting or worsening.
Want to learn how to know if you’re feeling stuck in your head? Below are four tell-tale signs of overthinking and some tips to help you stop this harmful thought process:
1. You Get Stuck in a Loop of Repetitive Thoughts
One sign of overthinking is ruminating on your thoughts. You might find yourself replaying mistakes, uncomfortable conversations, worse-case scenarios, and problems in your head. Overthinkers tend to repeat the same thoughts, fixating on past shortcomings and thinking about what they could’ve done differently.
If you find yourself succumbing to these mental processes, it can help to assess the value of what you’re thinking about. First, ask yourself if you have the power to change what has happened or what will happen. If you do, think of actionable steps you can take to accomplish this. If not, then you’ll need to move on from the matter. It helps to remind yourself that some things are beyond your control—and that’s perfectly fine.
2. You Have Trouble Falling Asleep
Are you having trouble falling asleep? It could be a sign that your thoughts are spiralling out of control. Since overthinking keeps your brain occupied with worries, getting good sleep can be a problem. Even if you try to get some shut eye, you may feel your brain is still working overtime.
So, how do you stop intrusive thoughts from getting in the way of a good night’s sleep? Research shows that an exercise called “articulatory suppression” might help. It involves repeatedly mouthing a word as quickly as possible. Three to four times for every second is usually the recommended amount. According to studies, it takes a great deal of mental power to mouth a word quickly. It can “interrupt” your thoughts and prevent them from happening altogether before bed. Some words that you can use include “the” or any proper noun, like the name of a country or person.
3. You Have Difficulty Making Decisions
If you’re having trouble making decisions, you may be mentally stuck. Overthinking involves analysing every little detail in a problem, which takes time. It can act as a barrier to making quick and effective decisions. The worries or anxieties that stem from obsessing over an issue can cause decision paralysis.
Even after you’ve decided, overthinking can lead to second-guessing. You might spend a lot of time chastising yourself for making certain decisions. The best way to deal with this is to ask yourself if a decision will matter in a few months. If so, use the opportunity for self-reflection rather than self-admonishment. Learn from your mistakes and use them to attain personal growth. If a decision won’t impact you in the long run, it probably doesn’t warrant much time and energy.
4. You Often Withdraw from Reality
Withdrawing from reality is another sign of being mentally stuck. Since overthinking causes you to dwell on thoughts, you might find yourself trapped in an alternate reality within your head. This “reality” is often cynical and isolating, making it difficult for you to connect with others. Rather than engaging with your loved ones or living in the moment, you might get entangled in thoughts and worries.
One good way of fighting this off is to ground yourself. To bridge the disconnect between your mind and body, you’ll need to immerse yourself in activities that bring you joy and help you focus on the present moment. For example, you can try volunteering for a local charity. You can also exercise, play with your pet, take up a new hobby, and practice mindfulness activities like yoga.
Getting out of your head can seem daunting, especially when you’ve developed a strong habit of overthinking. However, you do have the power to shift your mindset and change patterns of thinking. Looking out for the signs mentioned above—and applying their respective tips—is a first step to achieving mental clarity and peace of mind.