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Is it Possible to Stop Overthinking?

Have you ever tried to conquer your overthinking?

Maybe you Googled “how to stop overthinking” and read a few articles that offered some tips.

And while these tips sounded great at the time, (sure, maybe they worked to a degree) quieting your mind and overcoming your fears is still a struggle.

Well, I’ve got good news for you! It’s not you.

It’s not that overthinking is just a part of who you are. It’s not because you’re introverted and you have a predisposition towards being highly introspective. It’s not because it’s a permanent part of your personality. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you. It’s not because you aren’t following the advice perfectly enough. It’s not even because, by its nature, overthinking occurs in the mind and is therefore tricky to pin down (although this certainly plays a role)!

It’s that these well-meaning tips tend to deal with overthinking as the problem itself, rather than the symptom of a deeper issue.

If you’ve been following Metanoia Catholic for a while, you’re probably familiar with the Model. (See Parts 1, 2 and 3).

If not, or you need a refresher: our circumstances trigger our thoughts, which cause our feelings, which drive our actions, which create our results.

Here’s the real reason these tips haven’t worked:

Overthinking is an action. It goes in the A-line of the Model. This is important because we can’t solve our actions by replacing them with other actions! We have to go to the root of the problem. And the action of overthinking is rooted in a thought (or a collection of thoughts).

Allow me to share a short story to illustrate this concept.

The other night, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep (my circumstance). I started thinking about a talk I’m giving later this month. I know from past experience that once I allow momentum to build when ruminating on something in the middle of the night, it becomes very hard to stop and get back to sleep. Once I noticed that I was starting to overthink and worry about the future (my action), I stopped and got curious. I asked myself why I was feeling such a strong urge to continue to think about this issue. It turned out that I was having a scarcity of ideas. There was a fear (my feeling) that if I stopped my current train of thought, I was sure I’d miss out forever on some amazing idea (my thought). I decided this thought was untrue. Since God is the true source of all my ideas anyway, He can decide to give them to me anytime, and probably what He really wanted me to do was just go back to sleep.

I was pretty stoked to find that it actually worked! In the past, I would have kept trying to quiet my mind, think about something relaxing, or pray the rosary. These might have helped somewhat, but none of them really got to the root of the problem and dealt with it.

If you can identify the beliefs that are driving your overthinking, you will be able to find freedom from this debilitating habit. You might not be able to eliminate it completely, but you will bring much more awareness to when you are doing it, why you are doing it, and be in a position to choose not to continue engaging in it.

I would even go so far as to say that overthinking is a form of buffering. Buffering is anything that we do to avoid feeling our feelings. You’re probably familiar with this concept as we turn to Netflix, social media, or food to escape from our discomforts. How difficult it can be to not rely on these crutches. So it’s the same with overthinking. We indulge in overthinking to avoid feeling fear, uncertainty, or unworthiness. And until we are prepared to face these painful thoughts and feelings, sit with them, process them, and allow the Lord into them, we will continue to allow overthinking to rob us of the peace-filled and abundant life God has for us.

So what now?

My advice would be to take your overthinking to the Metanoia Catholic Journal. Ask the Lord to show you why you’re overthinking. What are you trying to avoid or escape?

And if you’re really ready to go all-in on finding freedom from overthinking, I’d encourage you to reach out to one of the Catholic Coaches trained with Metanoia Catholic (including yours truly)! As trained mindset coaches, we can really help out with the slippery, hidden nature of overthinking, which can be hard to grapple with on your own.