Have you ever found yourself thinking obsessively about something and end up worrying about it? You may have lost sleep being preoccupied by that one incident that happened some time back. It makes you feel like your mind is in a loop and it tunes in to the same playlist over and over again. Well, you aren’t alone. It’s typical that we find ourselves being entrapped by thoughts that overwhelm us at times. This phenomenon is called overthinking and it occurs to even the best of us. However, what is not healthy is when this condition happens at frequent intervals and when it takes a toll on the physical, psychological, social and professional aspects of our lives.

Overthinking is simply nothing but over analyzing and being excessively critical about one’s self and specific events which causes distress in an individual. Some of the potential factors contributing to this behavior are self-esteem issues, lack of confidence, fear of being judged and negatively evaluated, anxiety about the future consequences etc.

Overthinking manifests itself in many ways: endlessly deliberating when making a decision (and then questioning the decision), attempting to read minds, trying to predict the future, reading into the smallest of details, etc.

People indulging in this habit unreasonably criticize themselves over insignificant mistakes they may have committed in the past, constantly worry about other’s opinions of them, make baseless speculations about people, attempt to make predictions about future albeit the lack of evidence, feel severely anxious about the things that could go wrong, ruminate excessively about specific events and so.

Some people overthink at a chronic level where they feel unable to carry on with their daily routine due to their engulfing thought process. This, consequently impacts other aspects of the individual’s life. Consistent patterns of anxiety, lack of healthy sleep routine, inability to efficiently perform in academics and in profession, issues in interpersonal relationships are some of the problems faced due to overthinking. However, researchers have also found it’s correlation to the body. Studies have shown that overthinking can negatively affect the functioning of brain, digestive system, heart and can also suppress the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. It is also said to have a negative impact on the skin making it susceptible to many skin diseases.

Something is ought to be done right? These thoughts that serve absolutely no purpose and also pose a threat to our mental and physical health has to be cut short. Some of the strategies to cope with overthinking which are suggested by researchers and practitioners:

  • Rumination is not the same as problem-solving: Sometimes our minds can trick us into believing that ruminating about something actually helps us find a solution to the existing problem. It in reality makes us look out for more problems that may not even exist in the first place. Hence, the ability to distinguish between the two is essential.
  • Observe the triggers: if we consciously analyze our thoughts we will notice that it roots from another potentially linked thought. Therefore understanding where these thoughts stem from can help look out for patterns of overthinking.
  • Let your thoughts be: A major mistake that we commit during such instances is to fight with these thoughts and attempt to curb them at once. However, it has the contrary effect. Rather, just letting the thoughts flow without stopping them can help reduce the frequency of such occurrences.
  • Be present at the moment: Being aware of the present environment and our sensory experiences, attuning ourselves to the rhythms of the present moment can serve in letting go of the past traumas and future concerns.
  • Journal your thoughts: The old school method of pen and paper can never be understated. It could be that cathartic moment that we so wish we experienced. Penning down our thoughts can help release the mental pressure we experience.
  • Speak up: When we realize that we find it unable to handle these intense thoughts, calling up a close friend or our loved ones and pouring out our emotions could also help in a way or two. Social support plays a pivotal role in battling overthinking.
  • Allot time for rumination: Spending some time specified only for the purpose of ruminating can prevent us from superficially thinking about them throughout the day. It can also help us look at the problem at a deeper level and come up with possible solutions.

It’s distressing indeed to have to deal with a condition as this. However, enough motivation and practicality can be put to use to help overcome it.

Mental health awareness

“Ha! I’m unfazed. This content is definitely not for me”. If you’re someone with the same mindset, I’d suggest you take a look. Although mental health is a topic most people “don’t relate to”, it is the need of the hour today.

In today’s world where many heads turn towards the current trend in fashion, the tiktok videos andwhat not, the concept of mental health goes overlooked. From the extreme ancient practices of shamans exorcizing the mentally ill and drilling a hole in the skull, the attitude about mental health has indeed evolved. Although, it’s likely that we see conversations about mental health starting to show itself up on social media platforms and other public forums, the stigma and prejudices attached to it exists till date. It is still a “taboo” for most of the population today.

“Counseling and therapy is for the crazies” is a dialogue we’ve all been accustomed hearing to for many generations. However, statistics talk a completely different narrative altogether. According to a survey, the Indian population contributes to nearly 15 percent of the mental health issues globally.
To dampen one’s spirits even more, many people who suffer from some form of mental illness are not even aware of their illness and its impacts in their lives. The unfortunate custom of dusting off emotions and neglecting to acknowledge them has pitched in to make the condition worse.

And for exactly these reasons, the conversation about mental health has to be prioritized and brought to awareness at a global level. It is indeed unfortunate to encounter losing many lives every year to this monster hidden behind the human mind. Research shows that a whopping eight lakh people die every year due to some form of mental illnesses and only a quarter or half of this population seek professional
help and get treated.

The stigma and misconceptions about therapy revolves around the dichotomous thinking patterns that people tend to possess. The either extremes of “I’m not mental to seek therapy” and “therapy is for the rich and luxurious” have taken it all down the drain. However, it is important to normalize the concept of mental health because it is like any other need that men experience. Like how having a runny nose or a temperature is not something that one might be kept away or isolated for, mental health issues are fundamentally the same as the former.

One may wonder why such an emphasis has to be placed on mental health in the first place. “Man is mind; mind is man”. One cannot function optimally without a sound mind. A good mental health can contribute to the overall wellness of life, helps increase productivity (academic and professional), improve interpersonal relationships, coping mechanisms, problem solving skills, better emotional regulation etc.
Stigma hinders the society from looking ahead and initiating the necessary steps to promote and raise awareness about the essence of mental health. As a community, efforts should be made to shatter the stigma by allowing the members of the community to get insight into the basics of mental health and illnesses. Knowledge pertaining to handling such situations happening to themselves and their close ones should also be imparted.

As individuals, we can all contribute in our own ways to make mental health available for people from all levels of the society.

  • Use social media platform as a tool to spread awareness about the importance of mental health.
  • Be empathetic and listen when someone wishes to open up.
  • Be respectful of people’s emotions although it may not seem relatable.
  • Engage in activities that refresh you and lift your spirits (eg, reading, dancing, gardening, sports, painting or anything at all that you enjoy doing).
  • Encourage those in distress to seek out professional help.
  • Talk about your feelings to someone you trust.
  • Try learning a few self-help strategies to help yourself and others who may experience mental health issues.
  • Avoid making comments, remarks or mock and belittle someone who shares their personal story.
  • Understand that it is okay to not be your best self at times and to feel low and gloomy.
  • Give equal importance to your mental health as that of your physical health.
  • Gather your friends and family and talk about mental health, create a safe space and encourage them to share their stories of strength and resilience (confidentiality is a must).
  • Above everything, be accepting and kind of yourself and allow yourself to feel good in your own shoes and ensure to treat others the same way.

Every small step that we take will turn out to be a huge leap in making mental health a global reality.