I am not a worrier. I just used to think I was. I have spent a good part of three decades researching how to stop overthinking and worrying. I always thought it was part of my make-up, personality and nature. With a wonderful, loving and stable childhood behind me, I concluded it was a reflection of being a good, kind and caring person. It looked to me that friends and family around me, knew how to stop overthinking and combat worry.
My only solution to my overthinking mind that seemed to work was to keep busy. The problem, as you may resonate with, is the full-time commitment of filling my day. I was exhausted. At this time, I couldn’t see another way.
My Earliest Memory to Stop Overthinking
I remember receiving “worry dolls” as a gift one birthday in the hope that may assist with my worries. The story of the worry doll is a local Mayan legend. The princess received a special gift from the sun god that allowed her to solve any problem a human could worry about. The dolls were small, colorful and handmade. They are traditionally presented in a small bag the perfect design to carry around in a pocket. I can see now that this was more solid evidence that I needed something outside of me to help me combat my worry.
Throughout my life I sporadically read every book and tried every technique I could find on how to stop overthinking, worry, how to not overthink a situation and essentially be more relaxed with what life was throwing at me.
My mind felt like a washing machine on an intermittent fast spin cycle. It was exhausting and I felt a lot of aches and pains in my body. I worried about them too…obviously.
Worry is Just a Habit
I had never considered that worrying was a habit until quite recently. I also had never even considered I could possibly stop overthinking and worry because techniques had worked only in the short term.
I used to have the urge to ask for reassurance which was again only short lived until the next worry popped into my head. This became habitual. I started to see that there was a pattern.
In the medical world they described worry as “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” and I couldn’t believe how common it was. Many others must have also visited professionals to stop overthinking. I suddenly felt less alone and weirdly comforted with a diagnosis. That comfort wore off pretty quick.
I began to see that all habits, with no exception, are an attempt to avoid a feeling. I realized that I was uncomfortable with uncertainty (we all are) and worrying felt like a caring approach to have to a problem. I knew it didn’t get me anywhere and I felt anxious when I worried. I reached out to others to alleviate this uncomfortable feeling but again this was only temporary. It just added more uncertain thoughts into the mix. I can only describe this as a worry cycle that repeated constantly.
How to Look on it in a Different Direction
I never considered in a month of Sunday’s, that turning my attention to how my mind works would create a calmer mind. I realized that to stop overthinking and worry, I was looking in the completely wrong direction. I was like one of those computer characters walking into the wall repeatedly.
I became super curious about this new direction. It felt very different to all the techniques I had tried in the past. In fact, there was no technique to speak of. It was simpler than that apparently.
An Instruction Manual for the Mind Stops Overthinking
Everything these days comes with an instruction manual. My most recent one was for an induction hob I had fitted in my new kitchen. I glanced at it for a few minutes and then filed it with the all the others we had acquired over the years. My dad always reads the instruction manual cover to cover. My dad is a very wise man.
Learning more about “how the mind works” was something so fresh, so new. It was incredibly new to not be looking at the actual overthinking and more about how the mind was just a machine designed to keep us safe. The truth is, all minds crave certainty and I just got in the habit of worrying to alleviate that uncertainty. It became evident that my habit was not personal. The lower brain, which is responsible for the beating of my heart, our lungs to breath, was also at play with unwanted habits. I was just a repetition junkie.
I joined a wonderful community with people also looking in this same direction. I was starting to witness first hand others combatting overthinking and worry. I began to see how we are ALL the same. I wasn’t that special after all! Some of the habits varied but essentially, we were all avoiding one thing an uncomfortable feeling. Once I learnt that feelings were 100% safe, it didn’t make logical sense to fear them anymore.
All minds are so smart, but not wise and WE just innocently misunderstand this fact. Minds worry, compare, problem solve, judge and dramatize. My mind was a fantastic tool for doing all my calculations for my role as a financial assistant, but it wanted to do the same process to navigate through my day-to-day tasks. I was innocently stopping the natural flow of life.
When I began to see what the mind is designed for, it naturally quietened down. I was able to access my common sense and find solutions in the moment.
Discovering that my moment-to-moment experience was created by my thoughts changed everything. My experience was created through the special effects department in the mind. Just like a movie and I was always cast to be the lead role.
How I Stopped Overthinking
So, if you were anything like me, you are desperate to find the technique to apply. Like I said earlier, this approach to “stopping overthinking” just requires an open mind and a level of curiosity.
I was so blinkered to how life really worked. I never really questioned anything until recently. Why would I?
This learning process of the mind just created more expansion for me. I began to take the noise less serious but not by doing anything special. It was like I had seen the truth of it. I didn’t need to take anyone one’s word for it. I just saw it for myself. Like a journey of experimenting. I began to listen to the body and connect the dots. I discovered the feelings of anxiety was just simply waking me up that I was in my head, believing a story. Like an internal navigational system.
Finding this approach was like discovering the missing piece in a huge jigsaw puzzle. I was sitting on the missing piece all along. I had searched the whole house, under the sofa and even concluded it may have been missing in production.
Peace of mind is accessible to all; it is simply covered up temporarily by thought.
A worrier is swept up in the waves of their mind. Waves are like thoughts, constantly changing. Those thoughts are creating their reality. We can’t control the waves just like we can’t control our thoughts. But we can choose whether to swim in those waves or wait for the sea to settle.
I was never a worrier I just thought I was.
Freedom from Overthinking with Dr. Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson is a psychologist and Change Coach who helps people find freedom from anxiety, habits, insecurity and low self-esteem. She has written several books and leads live courses and group coaching.
Amy Johnson helps find freedom from anxiety and overthinking through insight and wisdom, not willpower.
One of Amy Johnson’s most popular books is The Little Book of Big Change, about the principles behind the human experience. The Little Book of Big Change shares a unique approach to healing anxiety, worry and insecurity. The Little Book of Big Change will help you understand what is at the root of your anxiety, low self-esteem, and self-destructive habits.
About the Author
Rebecca Gardner is a certified Change Coach.
You can see more about Rebecca and her coaching services here.