How to Stop Stress-Induced Overthinking
In slow-pitch softball, I couldn’t buy a hit. I would stand at bat, waiting, planning, and preparing for the ball. And that was the problem. My brain and all its relentless stress overthinking sabotaged my instinct.
I’m hardly the only one who struggles with stress overthinking. Everyone does. In fact, research shows that your brain constantly tries to forecast the future, to anticipate what will come next. In caveman times, that meant a fast prediction that a lion was probably following the herd of running antelopes, so stay away. Today it means mulling the healthfulness of every item on a four-page restaurant menu before picking the one that’s equal parts delicious and diet-friendly or agonizing over just the right witty words to post on Facebook in anticipation of judgment by hundreds of people. Think of it as sabotage—your instinct is overruled and soon your stress levels skyrocket, making it that much harder to reach your goals.
Odds are you also fret about your past experiences and decisions. But while some self-reflection helps you survive and thrive, too much can make you feel trapped and overwhelmed. “When you’re stress overthinking, you’re going round and round in a loop instead of moving forward and problem-solving,” explains Lori Hilt, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.