A few years ago I developed a habit of consistently overthinking. I named this habit my “zoom brain”. Deep thinking on certain subjects, zooming further in on the details getting lost in thought.
Typically this happened when driving home from work. It could be a manner of topics but most of the time it was life and death, the meaning of it, but it always ended with death. The thought of death swirling around in my head everyday, every commute.
I had struggled with mental health issues before but these thoughts, this way of overthinking was new to me. A typical cycle of zoom brain was this; 5 minutes into leaving work I would be thinking about life generally what was next.. where I was going. It would then dive deeper asking myself questions; What I will be doing in 10 years time?, 20 years time?, where will family and friends be?, when will I die?, what will happen to my body?, my mind?, what is it like to die?, I know people who are dead..people very close to me, how did it feel for them?, did they feel anything after?, do they exist after death?. I know everyone asks these questions at some point in life sure they do but it I couldn’t stop it, it just happened over and over, the weight of thoughts wore me down.
My strategy for dealing with it sucked, it sucked real bad. I buried my thoughts. I got home and forgot about it all. Didn’t talk to anyone, write anything down or actively seek a reason for why this was happening. This went on for months and I believe it contributed to further issues with my mental health. Eventually I did speak to my partner we agreed I needed to see someone professionally to get help. I was lucky my as part of our work benefits we get some free initial counselling sessions I think it was 3 or 5 worth checking out if you’re in the same position.
Seeing a counsellor filled me with dread. I had seen one before in my late teens, I left each of those emotionally drained but without any real purpose of what to-do with that feeling, how to be happier, what to work on. Things were different this time around though. My sessions were tough don’t get me wrong but doors were opened to me, I got homework, I had tools to help me combat some of this darkness inside. Counselling inspired me to seek out other techniques to help me address not only the overthinking mind but the dark thoughts it conjured.
What helps to calm the overthinking mind
As I always say in my posts these are things that work for me they may not work for you or be appropriate for your needs. If you are ever unsure always seek professional help from your GP.
Breaking the cycle
A key thing for me was realising that when I stepped out of my car the cycle broke because my reality was back. We can apply this to help us snap out of an overthinking cycle. When the overthinking hits I address it with questions…’is this something I really need to concern myself with? if yes then what actions can I take right now? is it under my control? No then I need to let it go its unhelpful to me.’
Techniques and tools that help
Writing – I found the thought of starting a journal daunting, I discovered a journal called ‘This Book Will Make You Stronger’ by Ollie Aplin, it contains prompts throughout to assist your writing. Ollie has an interesting story on how he came to creating this journal and its worth a read, check it out here.
Meditation – I have used meditation for a number of years. Its technique can be applied to many facets of mental health and overthinking is one. ‘Watching’ your thoughts instead of getting in with them is a meditation practice. This practice is explained in the clip below from Headspace the meditation app.
Three positives – I started this practice on-top of journalling. Its great if you don’t want to write too much and its good for reinforcing positive thinking. In short bullet points write down 3 positives to take from the day and then 3 positives for tomorrow.
Engage – Similar to snapping the cycle. Engage in something productive be it physical activity, have a conversation, grabbing a coffee with a friend. Changing the channel on overthinking is great for bringing yourself back to reality. That being said don’t use it to bury problems that do need addressing.
Counselling/Therapy – For me one of the main issues with my overthinking was the dark thoughts. This was doing damage to me mentally and wearing me down. Addressing these issues is key. My thoughts were centred around death, letting my mind overthinking on this subject developed into a high level of anxiety. Counselling for me as I said previously opened the doors up to how I could start to combat these underlying mental health issues which in turn helped me combat the overthinking.
I wanted to cover in this post overthinking generally obviously for me it centered around a certain topic, death. I will cover life and death in another post I think it was important in this post to show that no matter what the thoughts overthinking generally is destructive. With the right tools and the right mindset you can learn to tame the overthinking mind, become super aware of when its taking over and take back control of your mind.
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