Impact of Overthinking on Mental Wellness

Do you ever find yourself repeating past situations in your head, constantly mulling over what happened or what could have been done differently? Or, do you catch yourself charting multiple alternatives to execute a single task in fear of worst-case scenarios? If your answer is in the affirmative, you could be trapped in the vicious cycle of “overthinking”.

Thinking is essential for our survival. It helps us understand, analyze and form opinions, and even solve problems. But overthinking everything can have negative consequences on you. It is proven to be a bad habit that could trigger serious, life-threatening issues. Apart from affecting your mood and shaping a dreadful, pessimistic personality, overthinking can also make you sick. Curious to know how? Read on to learn about the downsides of overthinking for your mental health:

What Does Overthinking Mean?

Overthinking is your mind on overdrive, refusing to shut off. Your thoughts are plagued with undesirable negative situations that become an undeniably wasteful exercise. You begin focusing on the “potential” rather than the reality, worrying incessantly about the “would-haves” or “could-haves”.

Overthinking gets you lost in thoughts – more often than not, rehashing imaginary ideas pushes you to obsess over things beyond your control. These can distort reality and get you dangerously stuck in a make-believe world that has little to do with what or how the “truth” is. On the extreme, this often snowballs into something enormously detrimental, capable of toppling your mental and physical health.

How Does Overthinking Impact Your Mental Health?

Overthinking can slow you down and affect your general outlook on life. It’s a vicious cycle that kills any progress. Here are some ways in which overthinking impacts mental wellness:

1.   You are mentally and physically exhausted

When you are trapped in feelings of apathy and detachment due to overthinking, it impacts your brain functioning. You’re perpetually tired. Studies also show that mental fatigue can damage physical wellness. While the symptoms of mental exhaustion are variable, the “burnout” or fatigue pushes you into a rabbit hole as you feel stressed, drained, and hopeless. You are perpetually weary and unmotivated to pursue any activity or complete a task.

2.   You have difficulty sleeping

Obsessive thoughts hinder restful sleep. If you overthink about the next day or over analyze some aspects of your life compulsively, it could cause you to toss and turn the whole night. This could lead to sleep deprivation and feelings of restlessness. When your mind is racing with multiple thoughts, it causes you to be stressed out, resulting in chronic sleep disorders like insomnia.

The effects of poor sleep on your well-being have been widely studied. Loss of sleep due to overthinking causes a chain reaction that makes your brain run empty and obstructs a clear thought process. You will feel the “brain fog” which manifests in the form of your struggle to focus, inability to have mental clarity, or becoming forgetful. That, in effect, impacts your work productivity and the general ability to solve problems or make even the simplest decisions.

3.   You are anxious and depressed

The “what-ifs” can wreak havoc in your life. Repeated negative thinking that causes you to feel stuck as you go through old events, trying to figure out hidden meanings behind what someone said or did, or even reliving past mistakes, may lead to anxiety and depression. A study published in the Journal on Abnormal Psychology in 2013 has confirmed the same.

In short, overthinking deprives you of the joy of life and the ability to make the most of your present. It results in being fearful, worried, or stressed, resulting in self-sabotaging behaviors with repercussions that upset your long-term goals. In fact, on the extreme, a Harvard study has concluded that overactivity of the brain can impact one’s lifespan; that is, constant overthinking that exerts the brain can result in a shorter lifespan.

4.   You are deprived of social opportunities

It is a well-known fact that our social connections impart a sense of belongingness to a community or family. This impacts our mental wellness as we feel secure and supported. It has been found that those with an active social life are generally more joyful than those who don’t. As overthinking numbs you and erodes your energy, you tend to go inwards, secluding yourself from the rest of the world. This results from a depressed state of mind triggered by unfounded and wrongful assumptions of “what-is”. So, when we spend a long time negatively speculating things, we will be robbed of social opportunities that ultimately impact our self-esteem, satisfaction, and sense of worth.

How Can You Stop Overthinking?

Quite often, over-expectation from oneself and others is the most significant cause of overthinking. It distorts our image of reality and crushes our morale. Given the ill-effects that we’ve already discussed, it’s vital to stop this habit. Here are a few things that may help:

  1. Acknowledge your efforts. Since most of your overthinking stems from the fact that you don’t feel competent or good enough, quiet your mind and make peace with the fact that you have given your best. Some things are beyond your control, and it’s good to give up on the temptation to control every aspect of your life.
  1. Realize that you cannot tell the future. The past is gone, the future is to come, and the present is all you have. Human life has its limitations, and it’s best to stop dwelling in times that rob you of the joys of the present. The sooner you accept this, the easier your life gets.
  1. Know that there’s always room for improvement. You may not have gotten it right the first time, but remember that things can work out the next time. You’ll have other opportunities to start all over again.
  1. Practice gratitude for all that you have. Journaling can help you count your blessings and shut out the negative chatter in your head.

Overthinking can affect anyone at any point in life. If your mental overdrive has crippled you, consult an experienced mental health expert. It’s advisable to take some positive steps to break free from your overthinking spree and live happily. This will help you look forward to a world of better opportunities, become optimistic, and hopeful of the good things awaiting you. So, relax; you’ve got it under control. Learn to let go as this is not the end: there’s a lot to life.

Author Bio: Ramya Karamsetti loves writing articles on beauty, health, and wellness and advocates using natural remedies to solve everyday skin and hair issues. She is a contributor to StyleCraze.Com. When she is not writing, she loves traveling and going on adventure trips.


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