People who tend to ruminate and overthink to excess often display these 7 patterns of behaviors

“Hold on, I have to overthink about it”.

I spotted this meme once when scrolling through social media and it made me laugh.

Does anyone else find it 100% relatable?

For all my life I’ve been an overthinker.

It can feel very difficult to switch off those compulsive thoughts that play on a loop.

Whilst I’ve learned plenty of practical tools to try to control this unruly rumination, I know that part of it is down to my personality.

Here are some classic character traits of those who ruminate and overthink to excess.

1) They’re worriers

 Overthinking and rumination often go hand in hand with increased anxiety.

Worrying can feel futile, so why do we do it?

It seems some of us may be born that way, and more prone to it than others. So say some experts who argue your genes can play a role.

It’s also a bit of a learned behavior. If you grew up in a worry-prone household (like me), it’s a habit that may have been instilled in you. 

The truth is that everyone worries a bit, it’s normal.

It’s a fear response that’s switched on in the part of the brain called the amygdala whenever it thinks you’re in danger.

But with overthinkers in particular it can get out of control.

There is a tendency to over-catastrophize and blow small things out of proportion. The imagined threat is much bigger than the real one.

When this happens they often find themselves consumed by worry, constantly thinking about potential problems that have yet to happen and worst-case scenarios.

2) They’re problem solvers

 I don’t believe in “bad” personality traits. Instead, I think they exist on a spectrum.

At the other end of a potentially undesirable quality often lies something useful to us.

So, on the positive side of the overthinking spectrum is an analytical brain that’s constantly trying to figure things out.

Our brains are incredible tools. But they can get a bit carried away.

When they set to work on a problem, they don’t always land on a neat and tidy solution.

But when you are unable to let it go, it can start to become obsessive.

A lot of ruminators and overthinkers want to fix things. They want to make sure everything is running as smoothly as possible and can be very naturally detail-orientated.

This strong desire can trip us up when we cannot turn the thinking brain off. Then we just go round and round in circles.

3) They’re sensitive

 It stands to reason, the more sensitive you are, the more of an impact things around you can have on you.

Research backs up the idea that the more emotionally sensitive people are, the more they will find bad situations devastating.

Studies have also noted how highly sensitive children are more likely to develop a ruminative cognitive style.

 As nervous system expert Dr Linnea Passalar points out:

“HSPs tend to be quite tuned into their inner world, which makes them more prone to worrying about the future, or ruminating on past events. This can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety which can be difficult to manage.”

Sensitivity is a gift, but it can create challenges.

When things affect you deeply, you may be more likely to dwell on something and mull it over to excess.

4) They’re conscientious

This is yet another positive quality that can create some unwanted negative behaviors.

A lot of overthinkers and ruminators fall into these harmful behaviors simply because they care.

They care about other people, and what they think. They care about their own behavior and want to do well in life. 

Conscientiousness is admirable but it can get out of control when we care too much.

It can lead to self-doubt and constant questioning. As we’ll see later, this can create a negative self-image.

It’s considerate to be mindful of others, but when we obsess about what others may think of us it becomes damaging.

You end up overthinking every little thing someone has said or done or take things that happen personally.

That’s why overthinking, rumination, and paranoia can often go hand in hand.

5) They can be indecisive

The trap of overthinking is that all thought can lead to very little action.

We get so consumed by considering every possible angle that we get trapped in indecision.

Overthinking can stop us from moving forward and making a choice. We may worry that it’s the “wrong” choice, so decide to put it off until things feel clearer.

Yet they never do. And instead, the same thoughts simply play on a loop.

To put a stop to this, well-being author Leo Babauta recommends creating thinking deadlines.

“Setting a limit for thinking can be a good way to do this. “I’m going to spend the next 2 days thinking about it, and then make a decision on Tuesday.” You consider the merits, you do a bit of research, you talk to other people. Then you decide, and take action.”

6) They’re hard on themselves

Negative thinking patterns which then cause negative emotions are at the root of overthinking and rumination.

As we noted earlier, it starts as a response to stress. But it’s made worse by a negative mindset.

People who are very self-critical often ruminate over every little thing they say and do.

They find it very difficult to let go of any perceived mistakes. This can very quickly contribute to low self-esteem, which only feeds into a vicious cycle.

Rather than accept we’re all only human, and learn lessons for the future, they beat themselves up about everything.

Learning to be kinder to yourself can help to soothe this negative outlook.

In fact, research has shown that people who practice self-compassion are not only less likely to ruminate but are also less likely to have depression.

7) They’re perfectionists

Studies have shown strong links between perfectionism and rumination and other forms of overthinking.

Perfectionists struggle to let go because they’re so desperate to get everything “just right”.

They’re deeply fearful of making mistakes or being criticized. Getting it wrong brings feelings of shame.

Some people mistakenly think that perfectionism drives high standards, but that’s not true.

​​Perfectionists only end up feeling stressed out when life cannot be perfect and it leaves them with a sense of failure.

That’s when overthinking tends to creep in. They check, then double-check, and before you know it they are picking apart everything.

Overthinkers are often very self-aware, and they can use this to their advantage

Sometimes what I find bizarre and frustrating about falling into overthinking is that I can see myself doing it. 

But telling yourself to stop doesn’t do much good. You can’t talk yourself out of it.

People who ruminate and overthink are usually deep thinkers. They have creative and imaginative minds that are more prone to getting lost in thought.

This tendency to reflect often leads to greater self-awareness. They have spent plenty of time pondering their own thoughts and emotions.

Whilst this can be part of the cause of overthinking, it can be the secret to curing it too.

With that awareness comes a choice. When we notice overthinking and rumination we can take action to ease it.

Some of my favorite coping strategies include:

  • Finding a good distraction by doing a practical task or reading a book
  • Loving-kindness meditation (which also helps boost self-esteem)
  • Breathwork to promote mindfulness
  • Journaling to help you empty your mind by getting it all down on paper
  • A gratitude practice to help your brain focus on the positives in life
  • Talking to a friend or loved one

Feeling Adrift? Pinpointing Your Values Guides You Home

Do you sometimes question what really matters most in life? Feel unclear on the principles that should steer your decisions and path ahead?

It’s so easy to lose sight of our core values. Those essential truths that align our outer world with profound inner purpose.

That’s why life coach Jeanette Brown designed this simple yet illuminating values exercise. To help you define the 5 values most central to who you are.

In just a few minutes, this free download leads you to:

  • Discover what matters to you more than money or status
  • Clarify the ideals your choices should reflect
  • Create a guiding light to inform major life decisions

With your values crystallized, you’ll move through the world with intention, confidence, and meaning.

Stop drifting and download the Free PDF to anchor yourself to purpose. Let your values direct you home.

 

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