I have been struggling with anxiety recently. Overthinking has become a daily thing, and it is really taking a toll on me. Thankfully, I have got a wonderful friendship group who advise me, and keep me in positive mind. But I don’t want to always burden them with my problems because I know they have their own to worry about. I think it’s now time to chat about my feelings and stop holding them. I am 25 and unfortunately I don’t feel like the job I have at the moment could cover many counselling sessions. Please could you advise me on this. Anonymous
I think it’s great that you have a supportive friendship group that help you to stay positive, but I also think it is excellent that you have decided it is time to tackle your overthinking and perhaps talk to a counsellor.
You have very smartly put your finger on one of the major differences between talking a friend and talking to a therapist. In therapy the focus is on you. There are two of you in the room, but this is not a conversation: the space is all yours; the therapist will listen and think with you about your difficulties. This is entirely different to chatting to friends, when it is a mutual conversation, which means you will want to take into account that your friends may have their own problems to talk about.
A therapist will also be objective and unbiased whereas your friends’ natural desire to keep you positive might make it hard for you to share all your emotions rather than holding them which causes you to go into a worry loop and overthink them.
Overthinking is something that counsellors see a lot of. Almost every client will say at some point that they feel they “live in their heads,” or they “can’t shut their brain off” or that they find it hard to sleep because their “mind keeps whirring”.
Thinking too much about things can really, as you say, take a toll and lead to increased stress, disturbed sleeping patterns and mental health difficulties such as depression or anxiety.
Yet overthinking can happen so easily something happens, which to others might seem trivial or nothing to worry about, but it sends you spiralling into a state where you feel you simply cannot stop thinking. But what is happening is that you cannot think clearly, because your mind becomes so crowded with the “what ifs” and “shoulds”. Being able to slow down and calm your mind enough so that you think clearly can feel very difficult or actually impossible.
Ironically, the single most important tool in tackling overthinking is learning to think differently about your thinking. Basically: stewing on things is not helpful; whereas a brief reflection on things and what to do about them is. So the trick is learn to bring to awareness the times when you are ruminating on a problem rather than working out what to do about it. The next step is to learn the best ways for you not to be in your head all the time. This might be, as you suspect, talking to someone else to help you air your emotions and get things into perspective, but you also might find exercise, and other forms of mindfulness very helpful.
You say that you don’t think you can afford many counselling sessions, but if you are in London, The Awareness Centre have low-cost options so counselling might be more manageable than you think.
Good luck with it all, and thanks again for your letter about something that affects so many people.