4 Tips to Break the Overthinking Loop

[Image: The classic cat in the doorway indecision =  Analysis Paralysis.]

The classic cat in the doorway indecision = Analysis Paralysis.

Can you relate to getting stuck in overthinking, rethinking, and… thinking again, until you’re getting less clear?! I call it Analysis Paralysis.

I was part of a discussion online about the overthinking loop, and my friend, Alison, offered these fantastic tips. These tips are tried-and-true and easy-to-do. (There’s brain research to back this up.)

Since introverts tend to be especially prone to the challenge of overthinking, I knew I had to get her tips out to you too. I invited her to write a guest post, and here it is!

By Alison Király ~

Most people, introverts or extroverts, at some time in their lives find themselves overthinking a situation. However, I would be willing to bet that introverts are more prone to overthinking than other personality types.

Thinking deeply about a specific problem or life issue is very important. But when thinking is taken to the extreme of overthinking, what should bring clarity suddenly brings only confusion.

When I find myself facing a difficult problem, personal/private or inter-personal/public, there are 4 things I’ve found that help me emerge from the labyrinth with a clear view of what I am going to need to do to address the issue at hand:

  1. Write down your thoughts.
    Don’t try to organize what you are thinking in your head. Put pen to paper (I find the physical act of writing to be helpful, but perhaps simply typing on your computer will work fine for you) and let things flow, stream-of-consciousness style. Then, go back and sort through the jumble, sifting out key points and then re-write in bullet list form. If you handwrote things at the beginning, perhaps this is the time to transfer it to a computer format, which is especially helpful if you are going to take your thoughts into a meeting, or if you think you might need to refer to your points during a conversation with someone.
  2. Create a mental image of getting unstuck.
    The second thing I do (because, to me, overthinking is like being stuck in a groove that I often have trouble getting out of!) is to visualize a picture of a record turn-table. Visualize the record playing, with the needle stuck in a skip, bumping along in the same groove. Then visualize yourself taking the arm and picking it up and moving it off that bumping groove. Putting this mental image out there truly helps. (You might even add a physical gesture of moving the record needle.)
  3. Do something physical.
    When you are in the midst of overthinking, get outside and walk, bike, or run. If you need to stay inside, try something like push-ups or jumping jacks. Even a few minutes can re-boot the brain.
  4. Just notice it without judgement.
    If you find yourself overthinking and stuck, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead say, “Yes, I’m thinking about [fill in the blank.] Hello thought.” Then let it go. The next time the thought pops up, acknowledge it, and then say “Bye bye, thought.” Repeat.

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  • There have been so many times in the past when I’ve got stuck in analysis paralysis, but I’m much more aware of it now. I’ve always found that stopping what I’m doing and going for a long walk can do wonders – it really helps me find some clarity. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Kathryn, I see you’re into introvert stuff too. Thanks for stopping by. Walking, yes, is a great jumpstart for me too. Now to just remember that when the brain is sure it wants to keep going down that loop. 🙂

  • Derick

    This Post was right on time. Thank you! “bye, bye thought”

    • Ha ha, thanks for chiming in. bye bye thought