Introverts carefully weigh their options and think deeply about decisions, which means they get stuck in overthinking sometimes.
“When are you getting married?” “Where’s the wedding?” “Do you know your colors yet?”
When I first got engaged, I was met with a flurry of questions and a mountain of decisions to make. As an introvert who tends to overthink, the experience quickly became overwhelming for me. I felt paralyzed by all of the options available to me. How could I ever choose?
For introverts, making decisions can feel overwhelming because we have a tendency to overthink. In fact, we’re actually wired to overthink more than extroverts. Research has found that introverts have higher levels of activity in their brains than extroverts — in other words, greater cortical arousal. So introverts are actually processing more information per second than extroverts, which points to why introverts have a tendency to overthink.
Wondering if you’re overthinking something? Here are several ways you can tell.
9 Signs You’re Overthinking Something
1. You ask everyone you know for advice.
Having a tough decision to make can feel daunting. I mean, we don’t want to make the wrong choice! So we start enlisting the people in our lives to help us out. We ask around. We get advice. This feels like a way to take some of the pressure off ourselves, right?
While it’s perfectly fine to ask people you trust for advice, we may be overthinking it if we’re going to nearly every person we know and valuing their opinion above our own. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who have to live with our choice. If you’re always asking other people for advice, it might be because you don’t actually trust yourself. If you recognize that may be the case, focus on ways you can boost your confidence and self-trust.
2. You feel completely stuck and unable to move forward.
When I was planning my wedding, I spent a week deliberating what our “Save the Date” cards should look like. I remember calling my mom in frustration, “I’m so stressed out! There are so many options!” I’d said.
Overthinking can feel like being stuck in the mud — your wheels just keep spinning… and spinning… and spinning. It can feel like there are a million possibilities, and instead of that being a good thing, it feels completely overwhelming. In these types of situations, it helps to give yourself a deadline to decide. Once you’ve made your decision, make an agreement with yourself that you’ll put your blinders on and not look at any other options. What’s done is done.
3. You can’t think about anything else.
Overthinking can absolutely consume us. It can feel like you’ve got to examine every single option over, and over, just to ensure you’ve thought of every detail. You know you’re overthinking when you feel like you don’t have space in your mind to think of anything else.
If you find yourself obsessing over the same thoughts, try a mindfulness meditation to help you break out of this pattern, like this guided meditation for overthinking. You’ll probably find that when you separate from your thoughts a bit, it’s actually easier to make a decision.
4. You’re terrified you’ll make the wrong choice, so you do nothing.
If you’ve got a big decision in front of you, all of the what-if scenarios can feel so overwhelming that you’d rather do nothing and avoid it altogether. Overthinking causes your mind to feel cloudy and unclear. It may feel like there’s no good solution because you’re so worried about the different outcomes.
When you catch yourself purposely doing nothing to avoid making a decision, try journaling out your thoughts. Sometimes we get so stuck in our heads that we can’t possibly think straight. But, when we write our thoughts, we just might find the answer comes to us. And we introverts often like writing anyway!
5. You begin to doubt yourself in other aspects of your life.
When I was struggling to choose my wedding venue, I noticed I was having a hard time making smaller decisions, too. Choosing things like what to eat for dinner, or what show to watch on TV, became difficult because I’d gotten into this habit of doubting myself. Not to mention, I was spending so much time overthinking my wedding venue, I didn’t have the mental space to think of anything else.
If you’re doubting yourself and having trouble making any decisions, be compassionate with yourself. Overthinking takes a toll! It’s important to be loving with yourself and remember that just because you’re having a tough time in one area of your life doesn’t mean you’re incapable of decision-making in other areas.
6. You feel mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Imagine how tired your brain must be from thinking everything through so much! You know you’re overthinking when you begin feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted. You may feel burnt out, tired, and unable to do the things you normally enjoy doing.
The remedy here? Make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. We can’t make a good decision if we’re totally burnt out anyway. Indulge in self-care practices that make you feel good, like taking a bath, reading a good book, or going for a long walk in nature. Or just spend some quality time in your introvert sanctuary. Whatever you do, try to distance yourself from the situation for a while.
7. You ruminate about the worst-case scenario.
Sometimes we think we’re doing ourselves a favor by thinking through every possible scenario. It feels like we’re being prepared and planning ahead, so that if anything bad were to happen, we’d know how to deal with it.
However, when you’ve thought through 457 different scenarios, is that actually helping anything? Chances are, you’re just creating more anxiety for yourself. If you catch yourself ruminating on all the different possible scenarios, pause, take a breath, and do your best to let it go. It’s like Glenn Turner said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”
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8. You’re losing sleep at night.
We’ve all experienced those nights where we just can’t seem to shut off our minds, right? If you’re caught in a loop of overthinking, it’s likely affecting your ability to sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle, too. Research shows that when we’re not getting good sleep, we can feel anxious, which then promotes even more overthinking.
If this sounds familiar, make sure you have a wind-down practice before bed to ease into a restful night of sleep. One of my favorite ways to support my sleep hygiene is by meditating before bed. This cord-cutting meditation is a great way to separate yourself from the various interactions and thoughts you’ve had throughout your day so that you can rest for the night. Or you can try listening to certain songs to help calm your overthinking mind. The important thing is to try something and see what works for you.
9. You’re making tons of “pros” and “cons” lists.
Look, if you’ve got a big decision to make, weighing your options is great. And if you’re feeling stuck, I’ll always recommend writing out your thoughts. However, if you keep creating these lists and you’re still not finding clarity, take a pause because you’re probably overthinking it.
It can be so easy to get stuck on just the logistical side of the decision we’re making that we forget to tap into how we actually feel about it. If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to make a decision, slow down and tap into your emotions. Instead of making an endless number of “pros” and “cons” lists, weigh your options and notice the way it feels in your body. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to feel in your gut if something is right for you…or not.
Recognize the Difference Between Thinking Deeply and Overthinking
Introverts, your ability to process so much information is admirable. You think about things deeply. You carefully weigh your options. You plan for different scenarios. You consider others. This level of depth and detail is one of the gifts of being an introvert!
However, our ability to process so much can become a hindrance if we get so caught up in overthinking that it causes us to do nothing, or negatively impacts our mental, physical, and emotional health.
If your tendency to overthink is holding you back, make sure you add supportive practices into your life like journaling, meditation, and exercise. When you take care of your overall well-being, it becomes easier to recognize if you’re just being thorough, or if you’re actually overthinking it.