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Home / Articles / Happy Herald / From the Editor /   How to Let Go of Obsessive Overthinking
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Tuesday, June 7,2022

How to Let Go of Obsessive Overthinking

By Brigitte Lang  
Sometimes, our heads won’t stop thinking about something. Our thoughts will spin around and around, not willing to let go, obsessing. It might be about another person, a big event coming up, or about ourselves. It might be overthinking a decision, big or small. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a human thing to do, to overthink or obsess about something we’re worried or frustrated about. It’s a sign we’re feeling fear and uncertainty, and our brains are trying to solve it. Sometimes, though, it can be liberating to let go of that kind of thinking. It can lead to better sleep, peace of mind, and simplicity of living. So how can we do that?

“Don’t get too deep, it leads to overthinking, and overthinking leads to problems that doesn’t even exist in the first place.”

– Jayson Engay

Here’s a process that may help:

• Notice. Often when we’re caught up in a loop or overthinking, we aren’t aware of it. It seems like the right thing to do, to keep thinking about this thing that’s worrying us. But to break out of the loop, we have to notice we’re in it. What signs have you noticed that will point out to you when you’re in a loop? For many people, it’s a rising amount of anxiety, worry, inability to sleep or inability to focus. For others, it might be a desire to lash out at someone, or to plan or otherwise get control. The key is just to notice you’re in it.

• Turn toward the underlying fear. Once you’ve noticed, the trick is to look beyond the thing you think needs to be solved… to the fear underneath. It’s like not looking at the hand the magician is trying to direct your attention to, but to their other hand that is hiding the coin. Don’t look at the object of your thoughts or the problem you need to solve, but the fear that’s having you want to obsess and overthink. What are you feeling right now, in your body?

• Be with the fear. Before we let go of the overthinking, we have to be with the feeling of fear that’s in our body. Otherwise it’s like trying to calm a freaked out child by ignoring them. What if instead we could be with the fear and relax with it, so it can relax? Can you feel the fear as sensation, and stay with it? Can you breathe deeply and slowly, so you can slow your heartbeat and relax with the fear? Can you bring curiosity toward it?

• Ask what’s needed. Ask what your fear could use right now – some compassion, some music, a nice cup of tea, journaling, or a walk? Then ask what’s needed in the situation you’re overthinking – what’s the simplest thing you could do here, what’s the simplest way you could speak from the heart? Then trust that, breathe, and move to the present moment.

• Turn toward something right in front of you. What’s something right in front of you that you could focus on? For me, it might be the light in the room, nature, another person. Or it might be answering an email or writing a post. Something simple, right in front of me. I trust what I’ve chosen will suffice, and then I focus on something in the here and now.

This isn’t about getting this perfect or never overthinking or obsessing. I still get caught up in loops all the time. But I accept that as a part of my humanity and love the fear that’s creating it. Then I practice.


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