Overthinking: How to Leverage the Power of Thoughts

Neha has been awaiting a response to her presentation submitted to her boss for the last two days. With every passing moment, anxiety is encroaching on her headspace. Why is he not responding? What if he did not like my work? Will he fire me? Will he replace me? What will I do if I am fired? Neha has already reached the peak of her wildest imagination and is unable to control the mind chatter. Overthinking is eating her peace, and Neha can’t see the way out. Finally, her boss responds to her mail and praises her for the efforts she put into the presentation. Neha is relieved from the pain but realises that all her worries and fears were unnecessary and impacted her work adversely. If Neha does not want to go through the miserable experience again, she needs to address her issue of overthinking.

We all suffer from overthinking in our lives. It is a state where a person gets stuck on a specific thought (negative mostly) and thinks about it excessively. People often create worst-case scenarios and far-fetched situations in their imagination and go into panic mode. Overthinking is different from problem-solving. Problem-solving involves providing a solution to a problem through a thorough analysis. Overthinking involves dwelling upon a situation which does not exist in reality and reaching extreme conclusions. Overthinking is good in certain situations as it gives a scope for improvement/alternatives. However, the constant churning of negative and meaningless thoughts can impact emotional health. Understanding thought patterns and how they influence actions can aid in resolving the problem of overthinking.

In high-pressure occupations like Public Relations and Reputation Management, PR professionals often have to deal with demanding clients. They are expected to be available round the clock to address any unforeseen reputational crisis. Such intense work pressure can be overwhelming. In a quest to prove themselves, PR pros can fall into the trap of overthinking. I recently came across an insightful video of Rakesh Godhwani, founder of the School of Meaningful Experience where he explained the framework of overthinking and how we can leverage our thoughts to improve our performance.

Here are my key takeaways on developing an effective coping mechanism for overthinking.

The framework 

Overthinking can be classified into four phases based on the nature of thoughts:

  • Zone of Creativity – Positive and Meaningful Thoughts
  • Zone of Doubt – Negative but Meaningful Thoughts
  • Zone of Anxiety – Negative and Meaningless Thoughts
  • Zone of Curiosity – Positive but Meaningless Thoughts

Zone of Creativity – Positive and Meaningful Thoughts

A zone of creativity allows people to be proactive and go beyond their comfort zones. A person can achieve high productivity and success with the right actions in this zone. Leverage it to explore innovative things, take calculative risks, increase the learning curve and get desired results.

Zone of Doubt – Negative but Meaningful Thoughts

All of us experience this zone occasionally. A zone of doubt offers a protective shield against potential danger. Second-guessing decisions, reaching out to people for advice, spending time on research, and excessive scrutiny reflect that a person is in this zone. It is crucial to analyse the situation from every angle and cast out adversaries to make an informed decision. However, too much doubt can also cause anxiety. Hence, try to be rational in skepticism.

Zone of Anxiety – Negative and Meaningless Thoughts 

This is a zone where a person constantly dwells on future worries and creates extreme negative thoughts. People in this zone often imagine worst-case scenarios in their heads. As a result, they experience mental distress. Anxiety can cause depression and other serious mental illnesses. Take a pause and separate thoughts from self. Try to find the underlined emotion behind negative overthinking. Mindfulness and breathing practices help in calming the mind. Journaling is also a good way to observe and discard meaningless thoughts. Do not hesitate to seek professional help if the condition turns severe.

Zone of Curiosity – Positive but Meaningless Thoughts 

This is a zone of free flow of ideas. Sometimes, unconventional and highly creative ideas come from this space. Leverage this zone to do out-of-the-box things. Maintaining a diary can be helpful to make a note of ideas for potential action or future reference.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Priyanka Pugaokar
Priyanka Pugaokar is a communications professional with expertise in internal and external communication, crisis communications, content generation and media relations. She holds over ten years of combined experience in communications and business journalism. She is currently associated with Rashi Peripherals Limited as Corporate Communications Manager and leads several strategic projects. She is an avid travel explorer. A lifelong learner, she holds interest in yoga, naturopathy, energy healing and crystallography.

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