Over the past few weeks, our team at Thin Difference has been discussing the various seasons of life along with the lessons we’ve learned along the way. It’s been amazing to read the different perspectives and life experiences from such a diverse group. But today, I thought I’d take a bit of a different approach by processing the season I’m right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the mental treadmill of overthinking lately. I’ve strived to grow personally and professionally by thinking A LOT about the person I’m becoming. I’ve wrestled with my motives and intentions for doing certain things. I’ve been afraid of what other people think about me and then felt bad about being afraid of what other people think about me.

And while I wish I could say that all that time has shaped me into becoming a better version of myself… for the most part, I’ve only felt exhausted. I’ve been broken, built up, encouraged, and felt extreme guilt all within the courses of two-and-a-half hours. Hopefully, I’m not the only one that’s experienced this.

What is the Mental Treadmill of Overthinking?

I think we’re all susceptible to the mental treadmill of overthinking. It is to easy to emphasize areas we still need to grow rather than celebrating how far we’ve come.

The mental treadmill of overthinking looks a lot like perpetual tinkering. For me, it’s this sense like there’s always work to be done. I’m never where I want to be or think I should be. Professionally, there’s always a little more work to be done in the day, and each day I keep getting more and more behind.

When I’m on this mental treadmill, I start to over-examine everything. Rather than simply “being” — I’m so caught up in my thoughts, motivations, intentions, future fears, and the unknown impact of my decisions.

I’m completely self-focused and I’m ready to step off the treadmill.

Small Steps I’m Taking to Get Off the Treadmill

But I’m starting to recognize that it doesn’t have to be that way. While doing the hard work of self-discovery is valuable, we weren’t meant to live in it 24 hours a day.

Thankfully, here are a few tips I’ve learned from a few friends to start taking steps off the mental treadmill of overthinking

Honor the Small Wins

Think about everything it took today to get you to the point where you are at this exact moment. What obstacles did you face? What discouragements did you have to walk through? I don’t do a good job of recognizing, much less celebrating this type of progress.

Engage in the Good News and Encouragement from Others

How often do we stop and engage the good news that we hear? Most of the time I either: ignore it because I’m too busy to slow down, deflect it because I’m uncomfortable with the spotlight, or minimize it because I don’t believe it’s true. Whenever I’m tempted to ignore, deflect, or minimize good news and encouragement, I’m trying to engage it, embrace it, and celebrate it.

Celebrate Your Growth

I am not the same person I was a decade ago. You aren’t either. But constantly focusing on who we’re becoming can often prevent us from stopping and celebrating how far we’ve come. Are you the person you were five years ago? Pause and think about that question. This allows you to step into what’s coming next from an orientation of anticipation.

Find a Small Thing that Gives you Joy, and Do it Daily

What is one thing that gives you joy and only takes 10 minutes to do? I’m amazed at how many people have a hard time answering that question. It could be a short walk in the woods. It could be jamming out to your favorite 90’s rock song. Whatever it is for you, incorporating that into your daily routine is incredibly important in seasons that seem stressful, overwhelming, or exhausting.

Establish Rhythms and Routines of Celebration

If celebration helps us step off the mental treadmill, then we should find small ways to incorporate it into our rhythm of life. Celebrating a long work week doesn’t have to look like throwing a big party. It could look like grabbing drinks with a friend at your favorite brewery. If you get a new job, take a night to gather with friends to reflect on your previous season and anticipate your next one. Stopping to celebrate keeps us from automatically jumping into the next thing or back onto the treadmill.

I’ll be honest; learning these habits is still a work in progress. But creating a culture of celebration, joy, and community has by far been the most helpful thing for getting off the mental treadmill of overthinking I’ve spent so much time on this last season.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
We’re all susceptible to the mental treadmill of overthinking. And while doing the hard work of self-discovery is valuable, we weren’t meant to live in it 24 hours a day.