Manilka Ediriweera urges readers to get a grip on their thought processes

Many of us tend to overthink things. For some, overanalysing is a chronic occupation while for others, it happens in fits and starts. Either way, when it begins, it’s hard to stop. And this runaway thought process often results in a sense of unhappiness; and it is one of the main reasons for people missing out on opportunities.

This is particularly true in the fast-paced world we live in today. In this technologically advanced and dynamic world where time is of utmost value, overthinking can undermine our prospects or cause us to miss great opportunities as we constantly worry about issues.

That’s not to say that thinking is bad; in fact, it’s a healthy habit. Strategic or critical analysis plays a crucial role in our lives and has its merits.

So thinking is not inherently a bad thing; but overthinking on the other hand, can be stifling. It can cause us to overanalyse our thoughts and events, and eventually squash productivity and stifle creativity.

In short, when we constantly overanalyse something, it becomes counterproductive because during that period, we may have missed countless opportunities that require prompt action.

Signs of overthinking typically include the following: a tendency to dwell on the past (mainly over our mistakes or bad decisions); fixate on things we have no control over; put ourselves at fault; and endure a constant feeling of worry or anxiety.

If any of these signs resonate with you, chances are that you’re an overthinker and need to nip that process in the bud.

Some adverse effects of overthinking include the following: stress; the inability to make timely and informed decisions; falling productivity; a loss of confidence and tendency to procrastinate; an inclination to overcomplicate simple matters; and stifled creativity.

So how can you calm down, gain control of the situation and stop overthinking?

Though you may feel downbeat about this, the good news is that it can be managed. Here are some easy and effective ways to prevent overthinking.

Pay attention and be aware of your thoughts – and why you think they’re important. It is also necessary to identify and acknowledge any fears you may have when you need to make a decision.

While fear is part and parcel of decision making, acknowledging and identifying your fears will help you embrace the idea that it’s okay to fail, and move on after learning lessons from an unsuccessful situation.

At the same time, you should also try and work on starting your day with positivity. If you spend your morning stressed and worried, chances are that you’re more likely to ruminate and overthink throughout the day.

However, you can avoid being in such a state by having a good night’s sleep, exercising in the morning and practising mindfulness. All this will help you focus on the tasks at hand, avoid stress and prepare you to take on the day without overthinking.

It’s also important that you schedule 15-20 minutes for reflection each day. This will enable you to be more aware of your thought patterns and help you stop yourself when you begin overthinking – and drive your attention back to the situation at hand.

While contemplating something for a long time can undermine your sense of control, it may also be how some people – such as perfectionists who fear failure – attempt to control their lives.

These people tend to overanalyse every single aspect of their actions and decisions to avoid failure.

However, it may not always guarantee positive results and could keep them from seizing opportunities that come their way.

Therefore, to avoid mulling over something endlessly, it is important to learn to trust your gut feeling or intuition. In certain instances where you simply can’t make a decision even after meticulous analysis, seize the opportunity and go ahead on the basis of your gut feeling.

Without overthinking, you should be willing and able to make decisions even when you don’t have all the information you’d like. And often, these decisions may be the best ones you could make!

But at the same time, while learning to embrace the power of your intuition, it’s equally important to know how to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. After all, in the business world – leave alone life in general – the only certainty is uncertainty!

This doesn’t mean that you should act recklessly or impulsively. Instead, it’s simply about not allowing intrusive thoughts and overthinking to become obstacles when trying to make a decision.

So if you tend to overanalyse things, it’s important to remember that you can only be in control of events at certain times. It’s crucial to develop confidence in your decision-making abilities and trust your instincts – and the afore­mentioned steps can assist you achieve such a goal.