Love is one of the most powerful emotions we experience in our lives, and strong feelings take a lot of strength to handle. For those of us who are habitual overthinkers, love can become a mental fixation that causes stress, insecurity, relationship strain, and more. This doesn’t mean that love is wrong. Healthy love is an amazing thing – even when it hurts. To make a relationship work, however, we need to recognize and repair the mental habits that cause us distress.
What Does Overthinking Look Like?
Thinking about things is normal, especially in a relationship. Is my partner being distant, or are they just busy? Do they love me? Do they still love me? Did they mean to say something hurtful, or was it an accident? Why aren’t they texting back?
These thoughts are normal. When we’re faced with situations that make us feel uncertain, anxious, or insecure, we think about them and try to understand our partner’s behavior. Typically we decide what we think the situation means and take action.
Overthinking, on the other hand, is when we cycle through these thoughts over and over again until they consume us. This can be caused by mental health problems like anxiety and depression, or it can make those problems worse. Overthinking can keep you locked in an unhealthy dialogue with your own mind that distracts you, keeps you from making decisions, and adds unnecessary stress to your life.
People who’ve been hurt or betrayed by loved ones in the past often experience this, but it happens to all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. If you’re an overthinker, you’re not alone. Here are some ways to reign in your brain.
1. Find Out Where it’s Coming from
This might sound obvious, but take some time to reflect on the worries behind your thoughts. What is it that you’re worried about? Are you afraid of being left, cheated on, unwanted, lied to, or something similar? Identifying what you are concerned about lets you address that emotion in the moment, even if nothing about the overall situation has changed.
2. Analyze Your Emotions
No matter how strongly you feel about something, those feelings aren’t always rooted in reality. Take a breath and consider the facts as objectively as you can. Is your partner actually being distant, or is that only how you’re perceiving it? Are you comparing them to an ex or a toxic family member and seeing them through that lens? Your feelings are valid and real, but your partner might not be causing them.
3. Do Your Best to Relate
Sometimes the quickest way to set your mind at ease is to remember times you’ve done something similar to what triggered your overthinking. Have you ever accidentally or intentionally left someone on read, even if you cared about them? Have you ever felt the need to be alone, no matter how amazing your support system was? These situations can apply to your partner as easily as they’ve applied to you in the past.
4. Focus on Being Present
Sometimes our minds want to sprint between the past and future for seemingly no reason. In this case, it’s important to practice mindfulness exercises like meditation or deep breathing. Training your mind to focus on the present moment can help pull you out of an overthinking pit when it feels impossible.
5. Don’t Keep it all in Your Head
It can be frustrating to deal with the thought-gumbo stewing around in our heads that seems to circle around with no resolution. One way to help this is to put your thoughts on paper. This can mean journaling, jotting down thoughts in your notes app, or talking to a level-headed friend (NOT a friend who encourages drama). This helps you organize and understand your thoughts, and it may even help you close the loop.
6. Think About What You Want
When we overthink, it usually comes from a small event that makes us insecure or uncomfortable. Reflect on what you’re overthinking about and what it would take to make you feel secure again. Think about whether or not it’s realistic. Do you need your partner to text you back within five minutes every time? That’s unrealistic, but recognizing that it’s unrealistic can help. On the other hand, do you just need your partner to take a moment to look in your eyes and tell you they love you? Do you need them to be more proactive about deciding what to do or what to eat?
When you know what would make you feel better, you can work on it through communication.
If you’re in a healthy relationship, then your partner doesn’t want you to overthink things and they don’t want to cause negative feelings. Even if you know that your overthinking isn’t your partner’s fault, it’s important to make them aware. Without assigning blame, talk to them about the way you feel, what makes you feel that way, and what you need to move past it.
8. Nurture a Healthy Social Life
When your partner makes up most of your social interaction, your mind will steadily become fixated on their behavior and approval. We all need more than one relationship in our lives. Our partners are important, but we also need close friends. This helps us discover and grow as individuals, and it improves our sense of self-worth so we don’t worry as much about our partner’s actions.
9. Don’t Invalidate Your Feelings
While a lot of these strategies focus on managing your own mind, it’s critical to remember that you are a valuable and intelligent person who is capable of understanding and addressing your feelings. Is overthinking a normal behavior for you? Are you stressed, or has your partner’s behavior changed recently? Managing your overthinking is not about assigning blame and it’s not about ignoring your feelings. You need to acknowledge what you’re feeling, but you also need to acknowledge what’s actually happening.
10. Address Any Control Issues
When life throws its worst at us, we often cope by trying to take control in as many ways as possible. This doesn’t make us bad people, but it can lead to overthinking when we let another person – whom we can’t control – into our lives.
It’s important to identify any control issues you might have and work through them with a professional.
Overthinking is a dangerous rabbit hole that’s incredibly painful to go down. It can take one sign of neglect and spin it into a vivid thought loop of your worst fears. This is not your fault, but using these tips along with professional therapy can help you reestablish peace of mind.
This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Aliyah Moore. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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