Julie Tucker
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How to stop overthinking at work

Overthinking at work can have a negative impact on both your personal wellbeing and your career, making decision-making difficult and causing stress and anxiety.

If you recognise this as one of your personality traits, you’re not alone, as more than 50% of adults say it’s something they do on a regular basis.

The worst affected are people aged 25 to 35 – a massive 73% recognise they “chronically overthink” situations, compared with 52% of 45 to 55-year-olds.

What is overthinking?

Have you ever found yourself worrying incessantly and repeating the same negative thoughts time and time again? If so, you’re exhibiting signs of chronic overthinking.

It’s a pattern of behaviour that involves deliberating about things you can’t control and becoming overwhelmed with thoughts that won’t go away. In short, you think too much and for too long about even the small things and this can hold you back from actually doing anything.

It’s completely normal for everyone to stress about something now and again, but once it stops you from enjoying your job and your life, it’s time to overcome this behavioural pattern. Take a step back and consider if you experience any of these classic overthinking symptoms.

Dwelling on problems

You may find it difficult to distance yourself from office issues, even when you’re at home after hours. Instead, you tend to dwell on something that cropped up in the workplace earlier and second-guess how you handled the situation. Consequently, instead of relaxing at home, the workplace problem starts influencing your personal life and takes over your thoughts.

Reliving embarrassing moments

Reliving embarrassing moments in your head, from either the recent or distant past, leads to obsessing over what happened and judging your behaviour. It can get to the point where you physically cringe at the thought of something you did and go through it time and time again, without any purpose.

Thinking about your mistakes

When you’re continually thinking about mistakes you’ve already made, this leads to feelings of embarrassment that will hold you back in your career. It’s hard to achieve your full potential when your mind is ticking over about something negative that has already happened.

Everyone makes mistakes, but instead of analysing them objectively and preventing them from occurring again, you simply have continual negative thoughts about the situation, obsessing about what others think.

While it’s normal to want your employer and co-workers to see you in a positive light, obsessing about it causes overthinking. This isn’t good for your wellbeing, as you may start to take everything personally.

When a colleague is stressed, you mistake their behaviour for negativity towards you as a person, or you worry that they’re judging you.

How do I stop overthinking?

People who overthink typically find it harder to make important decisions. Learning how to stop overthinking at work leads to a clearer thought pattern and an ability to see things in an objective way instead.

Some people seek to overcome the problem through professional help, such as learning how to practice mindfulness, or by introducing relaxation techniques into daily life.

If you learn how to combat overthinking, it can have a positive impact on your career, not to mention preventing hours of unnecessary worrying.

Work out why you overthink

Determining the cause of the problem can be the first step to recovery. Research shows there are certain things that commonly cause overthinking, including feeling anxious and stressed in general.

You may doubt yourself more, or experience lower self-esteem, leading to changes in your behaviour. This can be caused by significant life events including a new job, or the end of a relationship.

Once you’ve used logic to ascertain when and why the overthinking began, it can be easier to find a solution.

Confidence building

It can take time to build your confidence, but in terms of self-help, it’s one of the most important things you can do.

Work on improving your self-esteem by identifying your talents and strengths. Think about the positive things your employer or colleagues have said when you’ve done a great job.

Distance yourself as much as possible from negative people, both at work and in your personal life. Practice better self-care and try to relax after work, possibly through meditation, to have a better night’s sleep.

Action plan

Work out a daily routine with a to-do list that prevents negative thoughts from taking over. Keeping busy not only reduces the risks of overthinking, but also boosts your productivity. Sticking to a plan means you’re spending less time worrying about things that are out of your control.

Instead of having one major goal at the end, set yourself a number of small tasks instead. It’s easier to accomplish a smaller job each day, rather than looking ahead to the end of the week. Once you’ve achieved your aims, this will gradually boost your confidence over time.

Practice mindfulness and positivity

Mindfulness means focusing on the present, giving your full attention to what you’re doing and not allowing your emotions and thoughts to wander elsewhere.

Do one task at a time, focus on the moment and be aware of everything around you, concentrating fully on what you’re doing and not delving back into the past.

At first, you may find it challenging to do this, but over time, it should become easier as you start connecting to positive thoughts.

This is a learned behaviour, so keep thinking of any good things that have happened in the past 24 hours, rather than dwelling on something negative that occurred some time ago.

Is there a cross-over with mental health?

Mental health at work is an important issue, as the office environment can impact employee wellbeing, which in turn affects performance.

Overthinking isn’t an illness, but it can be associated with other conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression. Research shows one in six employees have experienced mental health problems in the workplace, so it’s not uncommon.

Can coworking help?

Studies have shown that being based in a coworking space can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing.

They are not simply a place to work; they’re more a hub of creativity and interaction, where a diverse yet like-minded group of people can enjoy meaningful conversation and collaboration, which fosters a sense of community that brings people together. When it comes to choosing a coworking space, London has plenty to offer: basing yourself in a workspace that promotes positivity can combat the sense of isolation that can feed overthinking.


© Laddawan punna / Shutterstock.com

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