We asked a therapist how to stop overthinking things
Follow these steps to get rid of your tunnel vision
Overthinking sucks. It can leave us unable to sleep, causes minor breakdowns like FOMO to major problems like anxiety. We can get it from not knowing how to text someone we like back, to trying to tell someone you don’t want to meet them for a drink, to stressing about whether you’re going to get your dissertation done in time.
It can make you feel like you’re stuck in one place, and if you don’t act, it can greatly impact on your day-to-day life.
We spoke to Christopher Jones, a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears and anxieties to gain more control over their lives. Christopher told us the common reasons behind overthinking, and how you can prevent yourself from getting carried away.
What is overthinking
Over-thinking, or “analysis paralysis”, is when we go beyond thinking things through and end up spending more time worrying that we are making the wrong choice. We overanalyse a situation alongside a “running commentary in our head”. This running commentary leaves us unable to move forward and make any decisions due to the fear we might get it wrong leading to “feelings of being stuck and a lot of self-deprecation.”
“This can lead to frustration, which in turn leads to more inner dialogue and you get stuck living from your head. This can stunt your emotional awareness, causing proverbial tunnel vision and it will hinder your innate ability to think creatively”, Christopher told The Tab.
When do we overthink
We asked Christopher how to stop overthinking in some classic situations we all pull our hair out over, like how to stop stressing whether your £40k debt is going to land you a job, is your latest Instagram going to get at least double digits with the filter you’ve put on, or what do you say to get out of a social situation?
We spend what feels like half our lives on social media, making sure our online presence reflects our true self in the best way possible. But a tweet getting no retweets, or your Instagram getting under 10 likes can feel like a major first-world problem. Christopher says we need to “stop comparing yourself with others and have a clear outcome of what you want to achieve with your action”, so if you think your last tweet is classic, or you look FAF in your latest dp, roll with it.
Your read receipts show you read the text a whole three minutes ago and you still haven’t replied. “Omg, what if he thinks I’m an idiot?”, “noooo I can’t write that” as you continually type out then cancel what you were going to say. Like social media, Christopher suggests to stop overthinking what we’re going to reply and instead think about what we want the outcome to be, “knowing that you miss all the changes you don’t take, and that you can have many options if you chose to.” Basically if you don’t want a second date, just say so.
Dodging a night out
Apparently the best way to stop overthinking when you’re trying to dodge your way out of another night in the SU is by being honest. Christopher suggested being “open” with the person you are parring off which will provide a “good grounding” for future tricky situations you want to weasel out of.
The future after uni
Chances are you’ve spent a few nights awake recently on the brink of an anxiety attack because your mind is in overdrive thinking about the state of your dissertation right now. Christopher said that we often panic over how detrimental the possibility of getting a 2:2 in something worth 20 per cent of your overall grade will be, leaving us concluding it must be the “worst scenario”.
“Even if this did happen, it is unlikely that in a few years’ time it would make a significant different to your life”, suggested Christopher. Instead, you should go with what feels right knowing you can probs “adjust and manifest a favourable outcome” in the future.
How to stop overthinking
To switch off the tunnel vision, Christopher claims the following steps will help you to broaden your awareness through focusing on your breathing and being more conscious of your surroundings.
Step 1: When feeling anxious find a comfortable seat and focus your attention on a fixed position in front of you, just above eye level.
Step 2: Hold your arms straight out in front of you, with your thumbs pointing upwards. Focusing straight ahead, relax the muscles around your eyes, soften your gaze and become aware of your breathing.
Step 3: While still looking straight ahead, slowly move your arms out to the side. As you do this, notice yourself starting to take in more of the room around you, (without moving your head).
Step 4: Stop moving your arms when you can no longer see your thumbs from the corner of your eyes and let your arms slowly drop to your sides.
Step 5: Keeping your eyes relaxed and looking ahead as you did in Step 1, imagine your vision expanding. Notice more of the room around you. Begin to see more on your left, then on your right and notice how you begin to see so far back on either side, that you can almost see behind your head.
Step 6: Continue taking deep breaths slowly and evenly in and out, looking straight ahead and keep broadening your awareness even further around. Continue doing this for another 3 deep breaths. Once you have become practised at this you no longer need to use your fingers every time.
Through breathing and broadening your spatial awareness, you’re more likely to stop overthinking about the consequences of your actions as being the worst case and see them as something that won’t be detrimental and unfixable.