Kitty videos, motivational quotes, and rocky road ice cream — not even the world’s best mood lifters can stop an overthinking mind. We all know that feeling when the train of overthinking hits the rails, gaining momentum and becoming difficult to control. Constant self-analysis and mental replays of scenarios become the norm. The “what ifs” and the “whys” keep rattling in your head until you’ve exhausted every possible worst-case scenario.
While deep thinking about a topic can be beneficial for your professional life, overthinking can be detrimental. It can hinder your productivity, stifle your creativity, and deplete your problem-solving capabilities. The consequences? A loss of happiness.
But here’s the good news: overthinkers also possess qualities that any team or organization would value, such as being observant, detail-oriented, and empathetic. So if you want to harness your deep-thinking superpowers for good and overcome overthinking, keep reading. You’re in for a treat!
Am I an Overthinker? Why is Overthinking Killing My Happiness?
Let’s find out if you’re an overthinker. Have you ever experienced any of the following situations?
- A potential client (who you feel is out of your league) requests a pitch.
- A coworker emails you, and the message sounds serious.
- A colleague responds to you in a way that makes you question their motives.
- A new friend cancels plans with you for the second time.
- You sent an email that mentioned something you wanted to keep private, and now you regret it.
When these situations occur, what goes through your mind? Do you find yourself replaying past events repeatedly? Are you predicting negative outcomes? Do you constantly ask yourself “what ifs” and “whys,” trying to prepare for potential disasters?
If any of this sounds familiar, congratulations — you’re an overthinker.
Think back to the last time you contemplated a thought so much that it led you to play out scenarios in your mind. Were you experiencing happiness during that contemplation? Probably not. An overthinking mind tends to focus on the negative, sabotaging joyful thoughts and perpetuating a constant state of negativity. This not only affects your happiness but also your mental health, productivity, decision-making, problem-solving abilities, and relationships in the workplace.
But killing happiness is not the only impact of overthinking. It also has the following consequences:
Kills Your Creativity
Overthinking can stifle creativity. According to Psychology Today, previous research from Stanford University found that an overactive prefrontal cortex, which is associated with overthinking, reduces creative capacity. Another study conducted by Manish Saggar and Stanford colleagues in 2015 revealed that overthinking hampers creativity by keeping the executive control centers of the prefrontal cortex in high gear, preventing the mind from exploring new ideas.
Robs Your Time and Productivity
Overthinking is a time-consuming activity. It traps your mind in a cycle of ruminating over past regrets or worrying about future scenarios, making you lose sight of the present moment. Consequently, your productivity suffers. The constant mental rumination prevents you from focusing on priorities and desired outcomes.
Magnifies Problems and Dampens Problem-Solving Capabilities
Overthinking magnifies problems and triggers negative emotions such as fear, doubt, regret, and confusion. When your mind is consumed by these emotions, it becomes difficult to come up with effective solutions. You end up focusing more on the problem itself rather than finding ways to solve it.
When you succumb to negativity, it’s easy to adopt a victim mentality and blame others for your circumstances. By dwelling on everything that has gone wrong, you might overlook the opportunities that are right in front of you.
If you’ve ever wondered where the last hour went because you got lost in your thoughts, you know that overthinking can steal your time without providing any positive returns. But here’s the good news — read on…
Overthinking Is Toxic, Deep Thinking Is Not
If you’re an overthinker, it’s possible that you’re a deep thinker who gets trapped in a never-ending thought process. According to cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, deep thinking is intentional, rational, systematic, and driven by logic and problem-solving, unlike the emotionally-driven and chaotic nature of overthinking.
To distinguish between deep thinking and overthinking, let’s explore their opposing traits:
Overthinking: Irrational – Your thoughts dwell on negative outcomes based on non-factual events.
Deep thinking: Intentional – You focus on a subject with problem-solving intentions based on current reality to achieve positive outcomes.
Overthinking: Emotionally driven – You’re overwhelmed with negative emotions that originate from fantastical thoughts.
Deep thinking: Logically driven – Despite experiencing negative emotions, you maintain grounded and focused thoughts on logic and problem-solving.
Overthinking: Victim – You believe that life happens to you and you have no control over it.
Deep thinking: Empowered – You understand that your decisions and thoughts shape your life, and you have the power to control its outcomes.
Overthinking: Assumptive – You dwell on scenarios and people’s perceptions of you that lack basis in real conversations or situations.
Deep thinking: Truth-backed – Your thoughts are grounded in ongoing communication and data obtained from real conversations and situations.
Overthinking: Chaotic – Your thoughts feel uncontrollable and overpowering.
Deep thinking: Balanced – You engage in deep thoughts about situations while maintaining control and balance.
Overthinking: Problem-driven – You fixate on the problem and its potential negative outcomes.
Deep thinking: Solution-driven – You focus intensely on finding solutions and generating positive outcomes.
How to Calm Your Overthinking Mind and Make It Your Superpower
As a former overthinker myself, I know how overwhelming it can be when your mind starts spiraling out of control. But here’s the truth: you have more power than you think. In the following section, I’ll share tips on how to overcome workplace overthinking, preserve your happiness, and transform your deep-thinking abilities into a superpower.
Stop and Circumvent Your Thoughts
When faced with an uncomfortable professional or personal situation, self-doubt creeps in, and your thoughts start spiraling. However, you have the power to stop this train of thought and shift to a different perspective in the present moment, even when it feels overwhelming. By changing your thoughts, you regain control and become better equipped to handle the situation at hand.
Circumvent the thought spiral with neutral or positive thoughts. Don’t overthink how to come up with the perfect thought – it’s simpler than you think. It could be anything from imagining cuddling puppies and kitties to envisioning yourself surfing on epic waves in Hawaii. Alternatively, focus on something neutral, like a beloved painting or piece of furniture in your home, or treat yourself to your favorite food. And if needed, confide in a trusted friend and discuss positive topics. Allow yourself to practice these thoughts, even if they feel odd at first. With time, it will become easier to circumvent negative thoughts and redirect your mind towards positivity.
You’re always thinking, even if you’re not aware of it. When you feel emotionally triggered, especially in a workplace situation, take a moment to examine your thoughts. Are you feeling like a victim, blaming others? Are you angry? Anxious about future scenarios? Stressed? Overanalyzing the past and predicting the future?
By recognizing these thought patterns, you gain more control over them. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Predict positive outcomes, challenge negative spirals, cultivate peaceful thoughts towards others, and accept that you cannot change the past. It may seem easier said than done, but small steps lead to progress. Developing the habit of examining your thoughts will help you become more aware and resilient.
Ask First; Assume Later
Before assuming the worst after an altercation with a colleague, take a step back and approach the person involved. Instead of making judgments based on assumptions, ask questions to uncover the truth and avoid misunderstandings.
Shift Your “What If” Statements
Overthinkers tend to indulge in negative “what if” scenarios, anticipating the worst possible outcomes. But why not allow yourself to experience more joy by imagining positive outcomes instead? Overthinking the worst-case scenario doesn’t prepare you for it; it only steals your happiness.
Use your deep-thinking mind to develop optimistic “what if” scenarios. Envision the positive possibilities that might occur if the outcome goes in your favor. Challenge your overthinking habits and redirect your thoughts towards positive and uplifting possibilities.
Resolve Conflicts by Replacing Drama with Creative Power
During conflicts, overthinkers often get caught up in dramatic scenes fueled by “what if” scenarios that have little basis in reality. However, this inclination towards drama is linked to your natural ability to be creative, empathetic, and imaginative — all valuable skills. The key is to strike a balance and avoid unhealthy thinking habits.
The Karpman Drama Triangle, developed by Dr. Karpman, illustrates the negative dynamics of conflicts. It consists of three roles: the Victim, the Rescuer, and the Persecutor. Overthinkers may find themselves shifting between these roles during communication and conflict resolution without realizing it. Recognizing your own role and the roles of others is essential in breaking free from the drama.
But here’s the good news: you can transform these roles. The Persecutor can become a Challenger by exerting self-control and using imagination to develop optimistic conflict resolution scenarios. The Victim can become a Creator by accepting responsibility, empathizing with others, and finding creative solutions. The Rescuer can become a Coach by listening compassionately and empowering others to solve their own problems. This shift allows you to leave the drama behind and become a leader.
Write It Down
Another helpful practice to combat overthinking is keeping a journal. When you find yourself deep in thought, write down your emotions, perceptions, and thoughts about the situation. After some time has passed, revisit your journal and evaluate whether your perspective has changed. Stepping away from the problem and reviewing it with a calmer, more objective mindset can help you identify the irrationality of your thoughts and approach the situation more rationally.
Use the Right Tools
In your journey to achieve balance in your thoughts, certain tools and resources can provide valuable assistance:
- Practice communication and conflict resolution using resources such as “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle, “Poke the Box” by Seth Godin, “The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution: How to Thoughtfully Handle Difficult Situations, Conversations, and Personalities” by Rosalie Puiman, and “The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic)” by David Emerald.
- If you’re afraid of missing deadlines, consider using organizational apps like Trello, Monday, Asana, or Todoist.
- If you’re stressed about emails, Superhuman can help. It provides features like an Undo Send option and read receipts, allowing you to regain control over your inbox.
There’s a Reason Why Deep Thinkers Love Superhuman…
Rummaging through emails can be overwhelming, as it clutters our minds and makes us feel out of control. For deep thinkers, this fear of losing control can lead to imbalanced overthinking. That’s where Superhuman comes in.
Deep thinkers love Superhuman because it empowers them to regain control over their email inbox, and by extension, their entire day. Superhuman is not just another email app; it offers a seamless experience that reduces email overload and overwhelm. It simplifies your inbox and your life.
Here’s why Superhuman is the perfect tool for deep thinkers:
- Achieve Inbox Zero quickly and enjoy images that spark joy.
- Undo an email before it reaches the recipient.
- Get read receipts to see when someone reads your message.
- Utilize keyboard shortcuts to breeze through your inbox twice as fast.
- And so much more!
With Superhuman, you can reclaim control of your email inbox and manage your emails with simplicity and ease.
Get started with Superhuman now and discover how you can leverage its features to overcome overthinking and create a more balanced and productive life.