Overthinking is something so many of us do. It can be harmful for our health and wellbeing.
Overthinking can lead to stress, anxiety, even depression and other mental health issues. Overthinking can affect our immune system and make us more susceptible to illness. Overthinking can interrupt sleep and affect our energy levels and our mood. If we live with a health condition that we manage, overthinking can increase symptoms and pain, and it can become a vicious cycle.
If we spend all our time in our heads, ruminating and overthinking about everything, we can create a lot of imbalance in our minds and bodies. It's only natural that this 'dis-harmony' may start to affect our whole wellbeing.
There are many things that can help and support us. Many psychologists and counsellors will suggest CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) which is something I do find is very useful, and I use CBT with some of my clients too. Learning how to replace negative thinking with more positive and rational thoughts, is only beneficial. As well as practicing new ways of doing things, choosing new thougths to create new behaviours, and choosing activites that bring more happiness and joy. All of this is so very supportive and necessary.
There are other things that can help too. Knowing that we are all individuals and just like anything, overthinking requires not just a set of frameworks or tools, but a truly holistic approach, personalised for our own needs and experiences, for our whole self and wellbeing.
I have spoken to and worked with many overthinkers. I used to be an overthinker myself, so I know personally, just how unhealthy it can be and feel. I also know that the effects of our minds on our physical wellbeing is very real too.
I used to be an overthinker, but I no longer am. What changed this for me? I can honestly say, along with a few other things I'll mention here, that the number one thing that supported me, more than anything, was and still is, meditation.
It sounds crazy to people who are overthinkers that meditation would even be possible or would help. So many people say they can't meditate because it makes their overthinking worse. Or they can't possibly sit still in a chair, it's too boring, or it can even make them feel more stressed and anxious. Or they tell me they can't meditate, and they need to just distract themselves instead.
I know these thoughts too, as I used to find this when I started meditating. It felt possible. And yet, whilst distraction is also a supportive way to manage overthinking, it's not the only thing we should always rely on, and it can actually be quite damaging if it's our only coping mechanism.
Meditation and learning to be with and to sit with our thoughts - just as they are - is such a huge part of relief, and the path to recovery. And I don't use that word 'recovery' lightly at all, with anything. But I do know that meditation allows this to be and feel possible.
If you are an overthinker, you can learn to manage this and to even stop this pattern of behaviour, and to feel calm and peace within yourself.
As a past marathon runner, I was very used to running as my way to manage overthinking and any stress. The words we often like to suggest - get out of your head and into your body - I believed in this very much, and running was my way of doing just this. I thought it was healthy, when in reality, it was my only coping mechanism for working through things and managing anything in my life. I could control my thoughts and stress through running. Yet when I stopped running, for health reasons, I found the opposite to be true. As when I didn't have running as an oulet to cope, or to control my thinking and stress, it really had no other place to go, except to manifest within my body.
I know the effects of overthinking and our minds, and how this can all manifest as physical symptoms and even illness. It's a huge reason I believe so much in a holistic approach to wellbeing and to healing. Our minds and emotions are not separate to our physical bodies - everything is connected.
We do often say that we should get out of our heads and into our bodies, as exercise is of course a healthy way of being. But I have a different perspective on this, through my own experiences, and seeing this pattern so often in clients I have worked with. High achievers, high performers, and often athletes too. I see connections within everything. I've felt it within myself. And it's something I feel passionate about sharing, especially with those who are active and have full and busy lives and use exercise as their way to manage stress.
f I have a client who exercises a lot, or is an athlete, I know that we can often become addicted to this exercise-based way of managing our thoughts and emotions. And if we can't also do some form of relaxation or meditation alongside this, then I know this is a problem, I can see and feel this as an issue, and I will lovingly challenge my clients with this, for their wellbeing. Exercise cannot be our only way to manage our thoughts and our stress. We must also be willing and able to manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions through relaxation, rest or through some form of meditation.
For true holistic wellbeing, we all need to be able to sit with and within ourselves, within our thoughts, within our pain, within all of our feelings, and to not need a way to escape them or to be distracted from them, but to find a way to be with it all. If we can't do this, then our thoughts can too often manifest as physical symptoms, because they have nowhere else to go.
I often say that acceptance is a beautiful opening for change, and even for healing. Self acceptance can be so supportive through everything in life, including overthinking, and I encourage all change to come from this place of acceptance within ourselves.
Resisting thoughts, trying to push them away, forcing them to not be there, creating expectation and pressure within ourselves to stop thinking - can often create more overthinking, more stress, even more anxiety. It can become a vicious cycle. I see this so often, and how all these thoughts can perpetuate feelings of failure and low self esteem. The more we over think, the more negative our thoughts can become. It can feel a very difficult place to be and I know this for myself, and for others too. I also know that meditation changed this, for me. And I honestly believe it can for you too.
I don't believe we need to fix or to change anything. But what we can do, is support ourselves by accepting what is, accepting the thoughts as they are and as they come and go, and being wiling to create space, quiet and stillness for awareness within. This is what meditation will do. It brings awareness to ourselves, and supports us to be with ourselves, and to not have to do anything or change anything. We don't need to push thoughts away or to resist them. Instead, we can simply be with them, allow them to come and to go. With practice, tension dissipates, overthinking becomes less, we find space to breathe, and naturally our overthinking and any stress will ease. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes a willingness to sit with ourselves. But mostly it takes a willingness to make a choice for ourselves and our own wellbeing.
A couple of other supportive things to note -
Similar to CBT (Coginitive Behaviour Therapy), I like to suggest and challenge ways of negative thinking, to more positive choices. When we are dwelling or ruminating on something, I like to encourage a different perspective.
I often use a very simple practice - to write down all the thoughts you're currently thinking and to ask - can I do something about that or can I control the outcome to that - and if the answer is yes, we can talk through ways and actions you might be able to take - as positive action can replace overthinking. But if the answer is no, we can practice being able to let go of the outcome and thought process. A really supportive way to do this can be through a writing exercise as well as visualisation. Writing these thoughts down on a piece of paper, and then physically letting them go, and throwing them away. And in our minds, also visualising this process of throwing these pieces of paper and thoughts away. Or watching them blow away with the wind. Or if you need a stronger visualisation, holding a flame to them and watching them burn. Visualisation can be a really powerful way to shift our minds and thoughts. Sometimes using colours can help too, with our attachment to thoughts and patterns of behaviour.
I also find setting a timeframe can help. Just allowing 10 minutes to let yourself overthink. Don't berate yourself or judge yourself in those 10 minutes, just let yourself think whatever you need to, write them all down, speak them out loud, or just let them be in your mind as they are, and as they all come tumbling out. And when that set timeframe is up, imagine yourself holding a stop sign or a stop watch, and practice saying to yourself, 'it's time to stop overthinking, that's enough'. And then practicing actively shifting your mind from that place, to then thinking about a positive thought or a positive thing you can do, or taking your mind to a place where you feel happiness and joy. It might be something you've planned that you're looking forward to, and shifting your thoughts to all the positive things to come and to keep leaning into all those uplifting thoughts and feelings.
And whilst getting out of heads and into our bodies, with healthy exercise, is beneficial. Instead, or as well as - I like to rephrase this to 'getting out of our head and into conversations with others'. That is, talking things through with someone we trust. If you're an overthinker and it's becoming stressful and affecting your mental health and overall wellbeing, there's nothing more important than having support from a trusted professional - a psychologist, counsellor, wellness practitioner, or a coach - someone you know will support you. I always believe in a holistic approach, meeting someone wherever they are at, with their personal needs and experiences, and supporting someone as a unique individual to move through and forward, in all the ways they need. A holistic approach to everything is supportive for sustainable and powerful change in our hearts and lives.
There are so many things that can support us through overthinking. And I believe that it's possible to stop this for oursevles. Overthinking can affect our whole wellbeing. And whilst there are many things that I do suggest and talk through with clients who are overthinkers, I absolutely know for mysel, that meditation is the number one thing that has supported me the most.
I practice vedic meditation and it's a non negotiable practice in my day and as part of my life. It's a mantra based practice, just 20 minutes twice a day and it's effortless, which means, it's simply sitting quietly in a chair. There's nothing else we need to do but to just sit quietly, in stillness. This simple practice brings so much awareness that deepens more each time. There's no resistance, no need to do anything, no need to change anything, just a willingness to simply sit and lean into acceptance of everything that I feel and think and notice, and to lean into this awarness for greater ease and inner peace. So much opens and flows from this space. I so often feel that it's a decluttering of my mind, and the clarity I find through meditation can be greater than anything. I can only this for everyone, for all aspects of wellbeing.
I'd love to support you to feel a sense of calm and ease, and to know and feel the powerful shifts and changes that can come from this space within ourselves.
If you'd like to continue a conversation, or to work with me, then please do reach out and send me an email. I'd love to connect with you.
PS. If you'd like holistic wellbeing and coaching support, you can read more about working together through this link and I'd love to connect with you -
PPS. If you've enjoyed reading this journal piece, you may like to receive regular 'Letters of Support' and you can sign up through this link and download a free ebook as a gift too - https://www.katiejanewellness.com/resources.html
Katie Jane is a Life Coach, Health Coach, Counsellor, Nutritionist, Naturopath, Holistic Psychologist, Mentor, Writer, Meditation teacher. She has been working in the wellness industry for over 15 years and brings all of these qualifications and skills, along with her own lived experiences through challenges, changes and transitions. Katie works with clients in private practice in Melbourne, as well as online and over skype to other parts of the globe. Her approach to life and wellbeing is truly holistic and unique for each individual. She supports and coaches clients to make powerful changes in their hearts and in their lives.