How to stop overthinking.

By David Joel Miller.

Overthinking is harmful to your mental health.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

People who do a lot of overthinking, sometimes called rumination, increase their anxiety and their sadness. Unchecked overthinking, far from being helpful, can result in worry and leads to mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and depression. In overthinking your mind becomes your adversary, not your ally. If your mind is constantly turning things over and over and is wearing you out or if you find your overthinking has begun to interfere with your sleep and your relationships, it’s time to do something to put a stop to that over thinking.

If you suffer from overthinking here are some ways to get off that destructive path.

Notice when you overthink.

Overthinking can become an insidious habit. Become aware of when you are feeling distressed or anxious. The first step in getting overthinking out of your life is to become aware of how frequently you are overthinking. Avoid the trap of overthinking your overthinking.

Practice thought stopping.

When a child is doing something, they shouldn’t, we tell them to “knock that off.” When your mind starts taking you into bad neighborhoods, tell that mind to “stop that.” Another technique for stopping negative thoughts is to shift your focus to something positive. Search your memory for the happiest event in your life or imagine a happy event. When your brain begins to overthink possible negative occurrences, tell it to move to the positive.

Focus on the things that are likely to happen.

Most worry and overthinking is the result of an excessive focus on things that might or could happen but are very unlikely. Don’t spend large amounts of time thinking about things that are unlikely to happen. Most of the things we worry about never happen. Overthinking low probability events distracts you from dealing with the things that need doing today to prevent problems in the future.

Become a happiness expert.

Overthinking makes you an expert on unhappiness. Having a laser focus on what could go wrong obscures your vision of what could go right. People who are high in anxiety and depression develop a cognitive bias towards the negative. They don’t see the positive in their lives, and when they do they discount it. Notice small positive events in your life. When something good happens, don’t blink right away. Continue to look at and think about those positive, happy occurrences.

Avoid perfection paralysis.

Frequently people who are high in overthinking consider themselves perfectionists. An excessive focus on a perfection can leave you paralyzed. Pursue excellence. Try to become the best person possible, but avoid an emphasis on absolute perfection. Whatever you achieve should be valued.

Accept yourself as you are.

Failure to accept yourself, as you are, leads to a lot of unhappiness. However, you are, is perfectly acceptable. Acceptance values how far you have come. If you spend all your time looking for flaws you will miss your unique, individual qualities. Acceptance of yourself, others as they are, and the world the way it is rather than insisting that people places and things must be the way you want them to be will increase your happiness and reduce your anxiety provoking overthinking.

Inventory what you have not what’s missing.

Our society today, with its emphasis on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, has resulted in a lot of people believing their life is missing something. Constantly thinking about what’s missing from your life robs you of the enjoyment of the things you do have. When your focus is on keeping up with the Trumps, you will never have enough. When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you can enjoy the people and the things you do have rather than grieve over your lack of those things that others have.

Take the long view.

Overthinking takes the short view. The focus is on what’s lacking now, the problems of today. Ask yourself what difference today’s problem will make 20 years from now? How about 50 years from now? When you start focusing on where you want to be in the future the problems of today shrink and become insignificant.

Reframe the scary as exciting.

Before an athletic contest, teams try to psych themselves up. If you expect to be beaten badly, it will take all the energy out of your performance. Worry about failing a test is likely to result in lower scores. Go into life’s adventures expecting them to be exciting and regardless of what you do you can have fun. Focusing on the scary parts of life prevents you from ever-living.

Get into action.

A great way to overcome overthinking is to get into action. Stop ruminating about what could go wrong and start doing. Some of what you do today will be the great memories you will be storing up for the future.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Advertisements

Do you overthink things?

By David Joel Miller.

The more you think about things, the worse you feel.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Overthinking, sometimes described as rumination, is a common feature of several emotional problems, especially anxiety disorders. These constant thoughts can leave you both physically and emotionally exhausted. At times, you may feel as though your thoughts are racing away without you. Because you think these thoughts so often and they are so upsetting, you may begin to believe that the things you think about are very real possibilities.

Overthinking what might happen in the future increases your anxiety. Overthinking your past, beyond the point of learning from your mistakes, can result in depression. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that going over and over the same issue in your mind, in the same way, will result in additional insight. Overthinking increases self-doubt. The over-anxious brain is constantly on the lookout for threats and magnifies the smallest risk to terrifying proportions. Here are some of the common causes of overthinking.

Overthinking is about judging yourself too much.

Overthinkers judge themselves more harshly than they judge others. Self-evaluation, looking at both the things you do well and the things that you could improve on can be helpful. If your self-evaluation does not move beyond repeatedly reviewing less-than-perfect behaviors, you are judging yourself too harshly. Using the same scale to judge yourself that you use to judge others can reduce excessive self-criticism and prevent overthinking.

Comparing up causes overthinking.

Overthinkers always compare themselves to others who are better looking, more successful or seem more important. Constantly comparing yourself to others who have more or accomplish more, results in discounting everything you have accomplished. Rather than comparing yourself to someone you admire and feeling you are inferior, look for ways to learn from what they do and improve your performance.

Focusing on the negative increases your anxiety.

When you constantly look for the negative, that’s what you will find. Avoid focusing on what’s wrong in your life. Look for opportunities to improve yourself and the life you’re living. Spend less time thinking about what’s wrong and more time focused on the actions you need to take to reach your goals. Overthinkers look for the negative and disregard the positive.

Too much attention to other people’s opinion is harmful.

If you constantly are focused on other people’s opinions of you, your self-doubt increases. Everyone will have an opinion about your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to seek out advice and information from teachers or mentors. Too much attention to other people’s opinions results in you not having an opinion of your own. Be very careful whose opinion of you receives your attention. You are living a real life, and the person whose opinion matters most is yours.

Not knowing who you are creates confusion.

Not having a clear picture of who you are, results in a great deal of confusion and uncertain. Be careful not to be simply a reflection of other people’s opinions. Get clear on your values, your goals, and the person you want to become. Learning about yourself is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in your life.

Believing mistakes mean you are flawed undermines your self-confidence.

Focusing only on your mistakes put you on the path to overthinking, self-doubt and anxiety. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you must be perfect to have value. All humans make mistakes. Cut yourself some slack. Accept that making mistakes is a necessary part of learning, growing and becoming who you can be. Learn from life experiences but don’t judge yourself harshly. Looking only at your mistakes leads to a very negative, biased, opinion about your self-worth.

Being overly judgmental of others creates uncertainty.

Avoid judging others using a stretched yardstick. If you expect an unreasonably high standard from others, you will find that you are unable to measure up to the standard you have set. The more judgmental you are of the people you meet, the more difficult it will become for you to feel good about yourself. Humans are not infallible computers, but then computers frequently make mistakes also. Avoid expecting impossibly high standards from yourself or others. Accept that you like all other humans are a work in progress.

Work on making overthinking a thing of the past. If you’re overthinking has gotten out of control, consider working with a counselor or therapist to get your thoughts back on a helpful path.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

19 Ways to manage your anxiety

By David Joel Miller

Too much anxiety in your life?

Anxiety and Fear

Lessons Anxiety teaches you.
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

You do not need to let the anxiety monster run your life. Turn down the volume on that anxiety and take back control of your life. Anxiety monsters come in all sizes but these tips may help you with the one you are living with. Here are some ways that can help you manage those anxious moments.

1. Make to-do lists.

Trying to remember all the things you need to do will keep your head full of little working memory to keep track of what still needs to be done. The result of all that anxiety in your head is that you will forget something, probably something really important.

Write it all down, prioritize and start with the most important thing first. Cross things off the list as you get them done. This way you won’t forget to do something and if there is something left on the list at the end of the day it will be a less important thing.

2. Update your calendar.

Like daily list making, try keeping a longer term calendar to plan those important must do and must not forget projects. This can help reduce your anxiety over forgetting to do things.

3. Empty your mind – write it down.

Just remembered that you need some milk on the way home? Not sure if you sent the power bill in this month? A coworker mentioned a book and you are thinking you would like to stop on the way home and pick up a copy. Will you really remember all these things at the end of the day?

Writing down these things-to-remember frees more memory space and reduces your fear you will forget to do something important.

4. Be on time for things.

People who get to things on time and are well prepared have less anxiety. Show up late and your anxiety goes up. This is especially true if you are going somewhere for the first time.

Being on time is a skill most of us can learn. For more on being on time see the post about how those punctual people do things titled “How to be on time.”

5. Create routines and rituals.

Having a systematic way your do things can help take the stress and worry out of daily life. Clean out a place for something you do often. Have all the parts or ingredients necessary at your fingertips. Having a book bag for school books and a drawer in your desk for your writing things can reduce the last-minute frantic search.

You need rituals and routines, so does your family. See the post – Happy Families have routines and rituals for more on this topic.

6. Interview your anxiety and make it your friend.

Sit down and have a talk with your anxiety. What is it trying to protect you from? Why is it following you around? This may be the result of something that happened in your past that you are resolved to never let happen again. It might, however, be an effort to get total control over the world around you, something you should have left behind in middle school.

7. Sit and hold anxieties hand – learn to be comfortable with anxiety’s presence.

Sometimes anxiety, like fear, is justified. There may be risks involved. Anxiety can help you keep an eye out for unexpected events. Do not let the presence of your anxiety keep you from doing things you might enjoy or that might be beneficial for your life.

It is OK to feel anxious some of the time. Just feel what you are feeling. Say Hi to Mr. Anxiety and then move on.

8. See your doctor.

Some physical conditions can result in an increase of anxiety. Some medications turn up the volume on your anxiety. Worry about your heath is a leading cause of needless anxiety.

Work with your doctor on managing your health and on being sure that your medications are not making your anxiety worse.

Finding out if that little pain, you know the one, is a real health challenge or just something common, can reduce your need to worry and feel anxious.

It there is something wrong with your health the sooner you face it the better.

9. Keep your body in good shape – exercise, eat, drink enough water.

A healthy body helps keep your mind running well. A poor diet makes it harder for you to cope with life.

Having energy and feeling healthy can reassure your anxiety that you are back in control and it does not need to protect you anymore. Low blood sugar from not eating right can increase your symptoms of anxiety. Dehydration can put you on edge.

Lack of exercise keeps your body in protection mode. It can’t cope if it never gets to do anything.

10. Prioritize dealing with those high risks issues.

High risk and high priority worries control you until you take control of them. The sooner you take action on those important issues the less time you have to spend worrying about the outcome. Rarely does putting off an important action make it come out better.

11. Discover what relaxes you.

Pay special attention to those times in your life when you feel genuinely relaxed. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing when you are at peace? Recreate those moments whenever possible throughout your day. Pay attention to those gifts of calmness. What you notice hangs around longer.

12. Reexamine your habits – caffeine, drugs, alcohol.

Excessive use of stimulants is a real problem for anyone who has an anxiety disorder. Cut out the caffeine and other stimulants. Avoid street drugs. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with your anxiety only makes the situation worse. They work for a while, but when they wear off the anxiety returns worse than ever.

Smoking damages your heath, short-term and long-term. Do not tell yourself that you will quit when you get the anxiety under control. Quitting smoking and those other habits will help turn down the volume on the anxiety.

13. Get more sleep.

Being chronically sleep deprived makes you irritable and overwhelmed. Being well rested gives you the confidence to tackle more of life’s challenges. Most of us do not get enough sleep and the sleep we do get is low quality. Work on the things that promote good sleep hygiene.

14. Deal with those nightmares.

Nightmares play a role in maintaining mental health issues. In a previous post “Getting rid of Nightmares that maintain Depression and PTSD,” I wrote about the role of nightmares in depression and PTSD, Nightmares can both reflect and magnify anxiety. The treatment for nightmares is very similar regardless of what your issue is.

15. Systematic Desensitization.

This is a specific treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing the effects of fears in creating and maintaining anxiety. A similar treatment “Exposure and response prevention therapy” has been effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Generally, these treatments are done with a professional but there are self-help books based on these principles available.

16. Strengthen your support system.

Having a strong support system makes you less at risk to be overwhelmed by anxiety or any other disorder for that matter. There are several posts on counselorssoapbox.com about developing a good support system. The post – 11 rules for Making Friends & Creating a Support System is a good place to start.

17. Pray and meditate to clear out the worries.

Religious and spiritual practices can be helpful in managing your worries regardless of your particular faith. I try not to take sides in the debates on this subject. I am neither a religious expert nor a theologian. What I do know is that consistently clients have told me that religious and spiritual practices are helpful in managing their issues, whatever they chose to call those issues.

People who believe in something have better mental health, as a rule than those who believe in nothing.

19. Get professional help.

See the post – Anxiety – fears and phobias can be treated There are a number of treatments for excess anxiety, some better than others but seeing a professional counselor or therapist can be very helpful in managing your anxiety’s. Medication can be helpful for short-term or temporary control of anxiety also.

There were some of my suggestions for managing and reducing your anxiety. Have you found others that have been helpful to you?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/

O.C.D. or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

By David Joel Miller.

What is the difference between OCD and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder?

There are two different mental disorders that share the OCD designation. It seems odd that we have two disorders that share the OCD part of their labels. The way I read the DSM they are rather different disorders.

The result of this dual use of the OCD label is that the two conditions may be getting confused and that people with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder may not be getting diagnosed or treated the way they should be.

People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have high levels of anxiety and they have rituals they feel compelled to perform that relieve the anxiety.

Think of obsession as not being able to stop thinking about something, in the case of OCD this thing they can’t stop thinking about is usually connected to some perceived danger. This is beyond just being over-anxious about a real danger. Like PTSD there are images that keep popping into the head. Having these thoughts upsets the person. The person with OCD knows these are their own thoughts and that the thoughts are excessive.

The compulsive part has to do with the inability to withstand the thought and the need to do something to relieve the tension. These obsessions are not things like avoiding the alligator, which might keep you safe. They involve things like washing of hands over and over, praying for a long period of time repeating phrases or counting.

The description of OCD reminds me of impulse control disorders like gambling or addiction and has some similarities to over eating disorders.

OCD is a more generalized condition than what you might see in someone who has difficulty controlling only one obsession or compulsion as in an alcoholic who keeps thinking about drinking until the give in and drink. In OCD the compulsions don’t have that direct a relationship.

That is a very over brief description of OCD from the DSM-4-TR.

For more on OCD and its treatment, I would refer you to another site here on WordPress called ocdtalk.

How is OCD different from Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

This description of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is taken from the proposal for the DSM-5 since it will become final very soon and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is one of the personality disorders that the DSM-5 kept.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder involves a SIGNIFICANT impairment in self-functioning. Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder does not just have a few symptoms about one thing but that is the way they are all the time.

Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder gets their self-worth, their sense of purpose in life from their work or productivity. They are compelled to do something all the time. They have overly high rigid standards and are “inflexible” about meeting these standards. This sounds like that old “black and white thinking” to me.

Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is overly moralistic or conscientious. As a result of these excessive standards, they may be unable to complete projects unless they can be done “correctly” or perfectly.

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder lack empathy for others and will put work or moral standards before relationships.

If you are not perfect the person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder will not want you for a friend. If you think you are perfect then you may well have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or another mental illness.

Other traits of a person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder include rigid-compulsive perfectionism and negative “affect.” Meaning they are negative about everything all the time.

They person with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is also likely to practice “perseveration” meaning they can’t let something go. They will keep trying to get something just right even after it no longer matters.

I get the picture here of someone who is very “puritanical.” I believe sitcoms call them “anal retentive.”

People with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder do not end up in treatment very often, at least not for the personality disorder, but they do drive others around them to therapy.

Did that explain the difference? Feel free to leave a comment. I always feel compelled to reply.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books