Worrying about the future or replaying embarrassing memories is normal, and we all do it. For instance, just as you’re drifting off to sleep, you remember that time you accidentally ended a phone call to your boss with ‘Bye, love you’, and cringe as you experience that ‘Earth, please swallow me whole’ feeling anew. For some, however, overthinking can spiral out of control, resulting in a destructive thought process that leaves you feeling fearful and unable to move forward.
FROM THINKING IT OVER TO OVERTHINKING
Chronic overthinking begins when the judgement, reason, and problem-solving functions of the brain are guided into negative territory, explains Paula Facci, women’s growth coach and ACT practitioner. ‘Usually this is triggered by some event. It could be an unpleasant memory, someone pressing your particular buttons that day, or you might receive one negative or critical comment at work, even among praise, and hone in only on that comment,’ she explains. Once triggered, the spiral into overthinking tends to lead into one of two categories:
1 Worrying about the future, which often includes ‘thinking traps’, such as catastrophising, predicting, making assumptions, rash judgements, jumping to conclusions, and creating fearful ‘what-if’ scenarios.
2 Ruminating over the past, where overthinkers tend to judge themselves, a 2 situation or others harshly, and re