Saturday 11 April 2020

BRiC's Collective Voice: Overthinking and how to Overcome it, April 2020

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“Let It Go” – BRiC describes Overthinking and how to Overcome it.

In our recent Sunday discussion, we shared our experiences of overthinking the past (also known as rumination) and our fears about the future (also known as worry). We talked about how breast cancer has affected our thinking and how we react in the current climate when uncertainty over COVID19 impact can breed our overthinking.

We shared how overthinking can sometimes get the better of us, that we wake up at weird times in the night and get stuck in these repetitive negative cycles of thinking, how it can interfere with our sleep. Some of us described its effect as paralysing, holding us captive, how it can lead us to self-blame and grieve over our actions; make us feel low in self-esteem and confidence.

Some of us thought we had a predisposition to ruminate about the past, and/or worry about the future, because of our childhood experiences, and learning to feel guilty and self-blame. Having breast cancer also increases our tendency to overthink. Of course these tendencies are even more alive in situations where we feel alone and are in self-isolation. Yes, we have a lot of time to think and overthink, fear the future, and detail what we could have, or should have, done better.

Research shows that overthinking the past is one of the biggest predictors of later depression, and worry closely tied with anxiety. Interestingly, rumination discriminates, it is more prevalent in women than men.

A lot of our research shows that when we get stuck in cycles of negative thinking we are using up quite a bit of our cognitive resources that would have otherwise been used more efficiently getting stuff done. So, overthinking can slow the brain down, making us inefficient and sluggish. While rumination and worry can be natural responses of the brain, when they get excessive they become interfering, and circumstances which breed uncertainty and lack of control over our immediate situations can enhance our tendency to worry and ruminate. The brain is trying to make sense of what is happening.

What tips can help manage overthinking and help us gain some control?

We discussed that if we acknowledge it, give it some space, then it is less likely to dominate us. While this may sound counter-intuitive, as we would immediately want to fight it and push it aside, it can actually make our thoughts less threatening. Some of us have developed a laid back approach, others have found meditation and fresh air helpful. Structured breathing has also helped. Finding resources to be grateful and count blessings were also mentioned as useful strategies.

Our brain has an amazing capacity to learn and to adapt because its ultimate goal is to help us survive in the most effective manner. However when our brains respond, with fear, with overthinking, with sadness and so forth, they are signalling emotions that are critical to our experiences to our being as humans. The strength we want is to be able to embrace them and listen to them, perhaps let go of their controlling forces because then they may not be so loud once they are heard, they may not be so threatening when they are embraced, and we may not need to overthink, when we have accepted.

If you are a woman in the UK affected by breast cancer and would like to join our private support group please leave your name in the comments or message us.
With love #BRiCteam