How to stop overthinking and what makes us overthink

overthinking
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Many of us are plagued by overthinking, that hamster wheel of thoughts running around in our heads. Some call this “the committee”, that cacophony of voices steering them in different directions.

Perhaps you ruminate over something you said or should have said. Wake up in a cold sweat over some cringe-worthy episode back in elementary school. Or is that just me?

Often, overthinking negatively affects quality of life and prevents us from getting what we want. It creates anxiety and depresses our mood, taking away the levity and playfulness that help us experience joy.

So, how do we overcome overthinking? Here are six ways.

1. Observe your thoughts.

Rather than letting your overthinking take control, observe when it occurs without judgment. This will help you detach from the ruminating thoughts rather than feeling ruled by them.

2. Practice mindfulness to combat overthinking.

Learning to meditate for ten or more minutes per day will help slow ruminating thoughts. Daily meditation can rewire your brain to work more efficiently and effectively.

If you are diligent with your practice you should notice a difference in your thought patterns over time. They’ll become less oppressive and frantic and more slowed down and organized.

3. Do shadow work.

This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s a response to the common self-help advice to challenge our thoughts. Because that advice has never worked for me.

I’ve learned to do the opposite and go deep into the worst-case scenario. What is the worst that could happen? Then entertain that thought and how you would feel, without rationalizing.

For example, don’t say you would get over it and move on. That may be true, but the idea is to feel the disappointment and pain. Acknowledging your worst fears helps you move through them more effectively than avoiding them.

4. Do a brain dump to overcome overthinking.

overthinking

This is a journaling exercise in which you pour out everything you’re thinking onto a blank page. The act of getting things out of your brain and onto paper has a cathartic effect and helps organize those thoughts into something coherent.

If writing is not your thing, you can record a voice memo of your brain dump instead.

5. Take time to sit and think.

Many successful entrepreneurs schedule time in their schedules to simply sit and think. They get their best ideas from these sessions as their thoughts have space to flow without pressure.

Most overthinking comes when we feel constrained and stressed. Relieve some of that pressure by giving yourself a few minutes every day to let your thoughts meander.

6. Do something different.

Get out of the prison of overthinking by distracting yourself with another activity. Getting into your body and indulging the senses serves you best here.

Go for a walk, especially in nature, or move your body in some other way. Listen to some soothing or energetic music and take a dance break.

What causes overthinking?

Stress and anxiety can easily lead to overthinking. And you may be prone to ruminating thoughts when you feel unsupported and don’t take enough time for yourself.

Past trauma also leads to rumination. If you were raised without proper attention to your emotional or physical needs, you become hypervigilant.

That means you feel the need to consider all the outcomes (especially the worst ones) to keep yourself safe. If you let your guard down, your brain reasons, you put yourself at risk.

This is another way self-sabotage stems from a misguided sense of self-protection. For more on that topic, read here.

How to stop using self-sabotage to protect yourself

self-sabotage
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Did you know that self-sabotage is a misguided form of self-protection? Yes, self-sabotage is your inner child’s way of keeping you safe.

You may have wondered why you get in your own way so often. Especially if you’ve gone through any type of childhood trauma, you’ve become an expert in stopping yourself from getting what you want in life.

Those self-defeating behaviors may have worked at some point. But they no longer make sense and are holding you back from moving forward.

You may wonder how self-sabotage could ever be seen as a form of self-protection. Here are 4 ways.

1. Self-sabotage helps you avoid disappointment.

When we go after what we want, there’s always a chance we won’t get it. Rather than cope with the possible disappointment of falling short, self-sabotage “helps” us by compelling us to give up before we have the chance to fail.

2. It helps you avoid fear.

Almost anything worth doing that propels you forward in life requires overcoming fear. But life is so much easier inside the comfort zone.

Some of us were never taught the value and rewards of facing fears. We weren’t celebrated for our efforts, so the fear of putting ourselves out there feels insurmountable.

Self-sabotage helps us avoid this fear that feels like death to someone who never learned to navigate it.

3. It helps you avoid risk.

self-sabotage

Like fear, risk is another requirement on the road to an enhanced life. Self-development and relationships require risks like vulnerability and visibility.

As a child you may have been rewarded for being invisible, hiding your needs and feelings, and catering to others. Now that you’re called to show up as yourself, you may not know who that is.

Self-sabotage helps you avoid the risk of rejection for who you are. A risk that’s all too real because you experienced it as a child growing up in a system that negated your inner reality.

4. Self-sabotage helps you get your needs met.

When you grow up with unmet needs, it’s difficult to meet those needs yourself as an adult. Basic self care may elude you and you’re susceptible to burnout from not knowing when to stop on your way to a goal.

When self-sabotage presents you with the next distraction or compels you to give up before the finish line, it may be answering your need for rest.

Perhaps you need to ask for help or support or you’re moving in a direction that’s misaligned with your true heart desires.

How to stop self-sabotage

The reason these sabotaging tendencies are so hard to change (and why most self-help advice doesn’t work in the long run) is that they are subconscious.

What if instead of chastising ourselves for self-sabotage, we thanked our inner child for keeping us safe? Next time you go to berate your self-saboteur, treat her with kindness instead.

And become more conscious of her appearance in the following ways:

Perfectionism

Procrastination

Expecting the worst

Imposter syndrome

Excuses

Separate yourself from your inner saboteur and view her as a part of you that has good intentions. Then give her a hug, offer her a comfortable chair, and continue on your journey toward wholeness and personal integrity.

How to celebrate International Day of Beauty your way

beauty
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Beauty in our culture has been hijacked and made into something subjective. Instead of a source of joy, beauty has become something we try to obtain and live up to.

The concept of beauty has created pain for many women as they feel they fall short of its elusive standard. But I prefer the definition on my Moonly app: beauty is in everything that exists in the Universe and implies a way of being, creation, and meaning.

An aesthetics and cosmetology committee started the International Day of Beauty in 1995. But beauty encompasses so much more than physical appearance. Here are 4 ways to celebrate this day in a way that fulfills and enriches.

1. Care for your body.

I am not talking about a punishing exercise regime or denying yourself the pleasure of fine foods. Go for a luxurious massage, body wrap or polish, or treat your skin to a facial.

Indulge your body in a treatment that’s only meant to serve your own pleasure. Let go of the desire to tame your body into submission to some ideal.

Eat healthy food and exercise moderately because you love your body and want it to work for you for a long time. Not because you seek cultural acceptance or love by looking a certain way.

2. Care for your soul.

beauty

Nourish your soul with a time of meditation. Envision what you want and how you’ll feel when you have it. Take yourself on a retreat, either online or in person.

Visit an art gallery or other cultural spot to indulge your love of beauty. Give yourself a massage with essential oils. Take your time to experience the fullness of this act of self-love.

3. Indulge your senses.

Enjoy aromatherapy such as the scent of essential oils in your self-massage. Drink an herbal tea which will satisfy taste buds and relax you at the same time.

Fulfill your desire for visual beauty by adorning yourself with beautiful accessories and clothing that make you feel wonderful. Apply your makeup and do your hair as an act of self-love rather than to please others.

Listen to soothing music that calms and relaxes you. Or energetic rhythms that make you want to dance. Then dance as if no one is watching. Close your eyes to achieve the feeling of freedom and abandonment.

4. Connect and communicate.

Speak beautiful affirmations of self-approval and self-love. Reach out to like-minded women for deep authentic connection.

Express yourself fully instead of holding back parts of you that feel unacceptable. Embrace your power and magic instead of dimming your light.

The world needs your unique gifts, so have the courage to display them even when it feels audacious or uncomfortable. Especially then.

How to master the pursuit of pleasure

pleasure
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In the first part of the book Eat Pray Love, the author devotes herself to the pursuit of pleasure. She eats her way through Italy, listening only to her desires instead of the need for self-control.

In The Art of Extreme Self Care, Cheryl Richardson encourages the reader to put herself first. She explains how her world changed when she visited a life coach who challenged her to get a massage every week instead of every couple of months.

Both scenarios may seem excessive and aren’t designed to be lifelong routines. Instead, they’re examples of intentional interruptions to patterns of self-deprivation.

If you grew up with abuse and neglect, you might find it difficult to take care of your need for pleasure this way. You’re used to sacrificing yourself for the sake of others, whether they ask for it or not.

If you grew up with abuse and neglect, you might find it difficult to take care of your need for pleasure. You're used to sacrificing yourself for the sake of others, whether they ask for it or not. Click To Tweet

You go along with what other people want for fear of rejection or loss of love. This self-abandonment often happens unconsciously. The truth is we don’t know what we want because our desires were never considered.

When we grow up with emotional neglect, we learn that our needs are unimportant. We talk ourselves out of pampering our bodies because we feel unworthy of it.

Self care that some people consider basic may sound extravagant to you. Going for a monthly massage, pedicure, or facial feels like the height of decadence.

Here is my invitation to blast your own pattern of deprivation. Consider kickstarting your pursuit of pleasure by exercising extreme self-care for a short (or long) time.

Here are five ways that worked for me. (I receive NO kickbacks from these suggestions.)

pleasure

1. Panty by post.

I’ve always had trouble spending money on clothes no one sees. (Never mind that I have to look at them.) Needless to say, my panty collection left a lot to be desired.

So, my pleasure-seeking journey began with a monthly lingerie subscription. Panty by Post sends you a new pair of underwear each month, beautifully wrapped. It’s a delightful (and sexy) way to remind yourself you’re worth it.

2. Ten Spot membership.

The Ten Spot calls itself an anti-spa beauty bar. It’s a minimalist self care haven that focuses on cleanliness over crystals.

They offer a monthly membership for $45 that gets you a free service worth up to $60 and 10% off everything else. Sign up for a minimum three months and indulge in a new self care ritual.

3. Follow your intuition for pleasure.

Even if it’s only for one day, follow your inner guidance system wherever it leads you. Take yourself on a walk and go wherever your heart takes you.

Even if it's only for one day, follow your inner guidance system wherever it leads you. Take yourself on a walk and go wherever your heart takes you. Click To Tweet

That could mean stopping into an ice cream shop or buying something you don’t need. Avoid anything that feels like a chore or obligation, like groceries. Go for pleasure instead.

4. Ecstatic dance for pleasure.

Dance like no one is watching at these gatherings where talking and alcohol are forbidden. Instead of drinking and socializing, these events are all about the dance.

Reconnect with your body while enjoying the energy of your fellow dancers. You will feel a natural high as the music builds to a crescendo then gradually powers down. Pure pleasure.

5. Hay House audio subscription

Get access to an unlimited library of inspiring audiobooks and lessons for a small monthly fee. Listen to renowned teachers like Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Christiane Northrup, Cheryl Richardson, and hundreds more.

It’s an uplifting and edifying way to spend a few minutes or a few hours. In fact, that’s where I discovered the Cheryl Richardson book that inspired this post.

What would you add to this list? What does the pursuit of pleasure look like to you?

Fear and excitement and how to reframe them for success

fear and excitement
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Life coach Mel Robbins teaches that fear and excitement feel the same in our bodies. The only difference between the two is what happens in our brains.

She advises to resist pushing down the fear you feel before giving a speech or going on a first date. When your body is in a state of heightened agitation, the worst thing to do is force it to calm down.

When you attempt to ignore your fears, it can actually make them worse. Lying to ourselves this way never works and only creates cognitive dissonance.

The way you feel when boarding a roller coaster feels similar to the experience of getting ready to deliver a big speech. But our mental chatter tells us it’s something different and that’s where excitement turns into fear.

Lean into fear and excitement

So, instead of forcing your body to calm down or lying to yourself that this is not a big deal, lean in. Mel says to tell yourself you’re excited, because this is true.

The fear you feel when doing something positive for your personal growth is different than the fear that warns you of danger. It’s this good fear we want to get past, not by denying its existence, but by changing the story we tell about it.

Instead of ruminating over how nervous you are to give a speech or go on a date, tell the truth that you’re excited.

Instead of ruminating over how nervous you are to give a speech or go on a date, tell the truth that you're excited. Click To Tweet

Speak out loud to yourself, “I’m so excited to be meeting X. Or I’m excited to be giving this talk that will impact people in a positive way.”

Acknowledge the past

fear and excitement

Past experience influences our present feelings, whether those happened in adulthood or childhood. For example, a bad dating experience will make you more nervous about an upcoming rendezvous.

If you grew up without emotional support, you might find such nervous feelings overwhelming. You protect yourself with these feelings by anticipating pain and disappointment rather than being ambushed by it.

But now as an adult, you have resources to draw on, both internal and external. You can consult with a coach or therapist, or share your feelings with a friend. Or do some research on how to handle these feelings in a positive way.

It’s essential that we face healthy fears so we can have the lives we want. We must face and overcome uncomfortable situations to move to the next level in work and relationships.

It's essential that we face healthy fears so we can have the lives we want. Click To Tweet

If you want to meet your life partner, you have to go on dates. If you want to level up in your career, you must ask for the promotion, give the speech, etc.

Life-giving opportunities can be scary. But when we re-frame them as excitement, our potential to succeed at them increases.

Practice self-compassion

Give yourself compassion when you experience fear and excitement. Never criticize yourself for feeling this way. Or “should on yourself” that your feelings are wrong.

Mama Gena says to always tell yourself that whatever you’re feeling is right. We have a tendency to frame our feelings as good or bad, but they are neither.

Feelings send us messages and we have the power to reframe those messages to serve us in the most beneficial way. The worst thing you can do is minimize or ignore your feelings.

That could lead to unpreparedness that will, in fact, reduce your effectiveness and bring the result you dread. Instead, embrace fear and excitement as two sides of the same coin and create a new reality for yourself.