How much of an overthinker are you? And what can you do about it?

We all think. And many of us take a lot of pride in the thinking we do. We solve problems, create and innovate, show care through thoughtful gifts, we inspire and are inspired, and the list goes on. 


A lot of our thinking is valuable and efficient, but sometimes we find ourselves stuck in rumination, anxiety, negativity and self-doubt. If it happens occasionally when you are particularly stressed, or have a lot on, then it probably won’t affect your overall wellbeing.

However, I have found that overthinking can sometimes become more of a habit, a way of being, and it can permeate so much of what we are doing without us even noticing. 

Many of us recognise the common signs of overthinking: 

  • Dwelling on past events and not being able to move past them. 
  • Second-guessing decisions even once they have been taken.
  • Replaying mistakes over and over.
  • Going over challenging or uncomfortable conversations again and again.
  • Fixating on things you can’t change, control or fix. 
  • Imagining the worst-case scenarios and preparing for them.
  • Avoiding decisions or tasks but thinking a lot about them.
  • Not being able to sleep as you replay scenarios in your head.

The signs of overthinking tend to be relatively easy to recognise and they don’t feel good. But I have often found with the clients I work with, that it's not always so simple to recognise how often overthinking can slip into everyday thoughts and processing. How it can become a habit. And once it's there, that’s often when overthinking turns from something you occasionally do, to something that causes you anxiety and stress on a regular basis.

Often not being able to sleep at night happens at the end of a long day of stressors. Those mistakes or conversations that you can’t let go of pop back into your head when something is troubling you. It's part of a bigger picture, and to truly understand how much overthinking affects you, you first need to recognise how often it happens. 

The trouble is overthinking can often be cleverly hidden behind the guise of ‘necessary’ thinking. 

Have a think about it. You might tell yourself that “You are just being realistic”. That’s why you always think of the possible negatives no matter how positive the situation. If you didn’t, you might end up in a land of unicorns and fairies, right? But is it more realistic to weigh everything up with a negative? Research has found that 85% of what we worry about never happens. 

You might tell yourself: “If I don’t go over my mistakes then I will not grow and learn”.   That’s true, healthy reflection and discernment of things that went wrong is likely a positive activity. But going over mistakes again and again whilst berating and blaming yourself is likely only going to lead to anxiety and negativity. 

You might tell yourself that “Thinking through every possible outcome of a situation is being well prepared”. Thinking through likely outcomes is most probably a wise thing to do. However, coming up with worst-case scenarios of all the ways you might fail and preparing for what you would do in that situation is just exhausting. 

Another way that overthinking can cleverly show up is through the judgement of others. You judge them for not doing a good enough job, you are irritated if someone makes a mistake or you are hurt when someone doesn’t recognise the effort you have put in. Or you might even find yourself judging strangers. It’s an odd one but I believe a lot of us do it, myself included. Ruminating about others is a great way to avoid ruminating about yourself but it has the same result: negative emotions. 

What happens when we allow this ‘necessary’ overthinking to go ahead?

It entrenches the pattern of overthinking within our lives. It wears us down so that when we get into bed and the noise from the day quietens down and we are left with our thoughts, we have run out of defences and can no longer stop the onslaught of anxious thinking.  

As an overthinker myself, it was only when I recognised how prevalent my overthinking had become in my every day, and how many excuses I made for it, that I could then start changing the pattern. So spend some time noticing when you might be hiding your overthinking. 

Once you notice it, it's really hard to un-notice it, and then you have an opportunity to make a different choice: 

  • Instead of being ‘realistic’ by worrying about the 85% of things that never happen, focus on the potential positives and the gifts that you can find. In terms of probability, focusing on the positives is really just as realistic, if not more!
  • Create a non-judgmental and positive space for you to consider mistakes and failings, it is in a space of growth and learning that you can truly innovate new solutions.
  • Instead of thinking through every possible outcome, almost all of which will never happen, prepare yourself to cope with any situation that comes your way.
  • Catch yourself when judging others, how you talk of others is a reflection of how you talk about yourself. Choosing to see the positives in others primes your brain to see the positives in yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to let overthinking go… in all areas of your life. You will do just fine without it.        

I know this is easier said than done. You can’t just stop thinking. And the longer your pattern of overthinking has gone on, likely the more entrenched it has become. 

With this in mind, I created my ‘Breaking The Loop Intensive’, a 12-week programme to help my fellow overthinkers break free from the negative cycles and drive forward with confidence. It is designed to get you to your goals faster, with the support of someone who has been there. You have someone by your side who will not only ensure you don’t get stuck in a negative headspace but also help you to develop individualised tools to ensure you stay out of it.  

You can change overthinking and you can live with a more positive, efficient mindset that will allow you to reach your full potential. Learn more via my Life Coach Directory profile, where you can also visit my website. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Richmond, Surrey, TW10
Written by Rhiannon Brittain, ICF Approved Life and Career Coach, MSc, BSc.
Richmond, Surrey, TW10

Rhiannon Brittain, ICF Approved Life and Career Coach and Founder of Swift Coaching.

I help overthinkers to get unstuck, break the cycle and drive forward with confidence. I work with men and women of all backgrounds to break free and start living their life to their full potential.

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