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How To Stop Overthinking, According to a Psychologist

Have you ever had the same thought running through your mind so often that it starts to feel a little like you’re on a hamster wheel? If so, you’re not alone. The concept of overthinking is quite common and can feel debilitating when it starts to affect everyday life. Analyzing and deconstructing a scenario over and over in your head is an exhausting process that can consume your energy and prevent you from making decisions. We recently spoke with Dr. Julie Pike, a licensed psychologist and anxiety disorder specialist, who regularly appears on Sirius Radio’s Doctor Radio and was on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive for four years. Below, she shares some insight on the topic of overthinking and shares tips on how to overcome it.

Lively: Are some people more predisposed than others to regularly overthinking?

Dr. Julie Pike: Certainly, some people are more prone than others to be over-thinkers. This is due to both genetic and temperamental factors, as well as to environment. People who overthink tend to come from families who themselves overthink, worry and over-plan. While this tendency may be shared genetically and temperamentally, these behaviors are often modeled for us by parents and siblings, and we learn to think in similar ways.

how to stop overthinking

L: Do frequent bouts of overthinking harm your mental health in the long run?

JP: Overthinking itself doesn’t cause health problems but overthinking often goes hand-in-hand with worry and stress, which do cause a variety of health conditions. 

Additionally, overthinking tends to cause people to take longer on tasks than they might actually need, which can result in problematic job performance, frequent tardiness and create more stress.

L: What are some steps people can take when they find themselves overthinking?

JP: One great step is to practice making decisions in a shortened time frame, such as 15 minutes, one day, and no more than 3 days. And then sticking with the decision rather than re-thinking and researching choices again or at greater depth than is necessary. 

Another tool is to work on summarizing what you are thinking in 10 words or less. This helps you to be more concise and boil down to the essence about what is on your mind.

L: Are there any books or resources you’d recommend?

JP: A great resource for working on overthinking is Get Out Of Your Mind And Into Your Life by Steve Hayes. It’s a workbook for people who tend toward stress, worry, and overthinking. 

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