Anyone else find their brain in overdrive at night? Perhaps replaying your day, the conversations you had or situations that are out of your control? Maybe you have trouble relaxing, sleeping, and feeling like your brain won’t shut off.
Anxiety, stress, and overthinking seem to go together. Overthinking is when we analyze an event or situation in excess. Overthinking makes it difficult to focus on anything else and can impede us from acting. For example, you may be thinking about the consequences of failing that test or project, but overthinking is preventing you from acting by studying or completing the project.
You might be asking “Isn’t overthinking part of problem solving?” Thinking is part of problem solving, but OVER-thinking doesn’t look for solutions to a problem. Rather, it focuses on worst case outcomes and causes you to feel the emotions/sensations of those worst-case outcomes without there actually being a worst-case outcome. Ruminating on past mistakes, problems or “what ifs” increases your chance of mental health related problems.
Causes of Overthinking
Stress and anxiety are the two main causes of overthinking, but if we look just a bit further, you’ll find that fear, perfectionism, and self-doubt are other common underlying themes. Overthinking is unproductive and can make it difficult to enjoy life.
What does the Bible say About Overthinking?
2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs that “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NCV) says, “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”
Romans 12:2 (NCV) reminds us to take captive our thoughts through the renewal of our minds, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead, be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”
God reminds us that what we allow in our minds affects the way we think, in turn affecting our behavior.
Signs of Overthinking
If you’re wondering whether you’re an overthinker, here are some common signs to look for:
- Dwelling on an event or mistake, replaying it in your mind.
- Second guessing yourself.
- Fixating on things that are out of your control.
- Catastrophizing–making a mountain out of a mole hill.
- Rehearsing uncomfortable situations.
- Mental & emotional exhaustion.
8 Tips to Take Captive your Thoughts & Stop Overthinking
By now, you might be wondering what you can do about overthinking.
- The first thing to do is ground yourself in the present moment. Notice when you are in your head and acknowledge that overthinking is happening. Accept responsibility for your thoughts and make the CHOICE to exercise control over those thoughts.
- When we are faced with a stressful situation, we tend to react rather than respond. Challenge your thoughts with facts/reality, and work towards reframing negative thinking patterns by focusing on actual problem solving.
- Practice deep breathing and mindfulness. Breathing and mindfulness are two wonderful tools to decrease the stress response in your body and to keep you focused on the present moment.
- Time-limit worrying and make time to reflect by journaling. Instead of overthinking, choose to focus on God and focus on the good around you (Isaiah 26:3-4, Phil. 4:8-9).
- Go outside and get some fresh air. Time in nature can help regulate your nervous system and give you a change in perspective.
- Avoid reading through old conversations. This behavior will only fuel over thinking and worst-case scenarios.
- Talk to positive people. People aren’t meant to be alone. Surrounding yourself with a positive, uplifting community has positive effects on mental health and wellbeing. Community opens opportunities for serving together, sharing, providing connection, and learning opportunities, and a sense of belonging.
- Stop waiting for perfection. It doesn’t exist. Strive to do your best.
Overthinking can and will destroy your mood. Refocus, pray, and remember that you are not alone. God already knows the answer and outcome. He wants to hear from you. Breathe and let go.
Closing Breath Prayer
Try this breath prayer to refocus your mind when you are overwhelmed and overthinking.
Begin by breathing in filling your entire being and exhale slowly and completely.
Inhale: Your Grace
Exhale: Is sufficient for me
Inhale: I will not be afraid
Exhale: For you are with me
Inhale: I find rest
Exhale: In You
If you continually struggle with overthinking, don’t continue to struggle alone. Reach out to a trusted counselor to help you learn how to take your thoughts captive.