Regardless of what you do for a living — or how much you love it — it's bound to be a source of stress and anxiety from time to time. And in these moments it's not uncommon to find yourself spiraling with thoughts of doubt and insecurity, whether it be with your relationships with employers and coworkers, or your job performance overall. But you can learn how to avoid overthinking at work and save yourself from going down that path with the help of some expert-approved tactics that are actually pretty simple once you make a habit of them.
So what causes overthinking exactly at what makes it different from healthy, critical analyzing? Therapists specifically define overthinking as a behavior that's decidedly more obsessive and can ultimately be destructive. As for what causes it, this type of thinking often stems from stressful situations as a form of fear, as can often be the case with work environments. "Overthinking at its fundamental level is people-pleasing," explains Human Design Coach Jeni Gage. "We're trying to avoid conflict and gain praise simultaneously. Most workplaces thrive on groupthink, therefore it's easy to slip into the expectations of others."
In addition to what happens during your actual 9-5, other areas of your life that are causing duress could pile up, adding to the existing causes of stress and anxiety and burnout that your job creates, so even if it's not the environment itself that's the issue, you may notice overthinking popping up as you try to tackle your usual tasks.
But no matter the reason, there are a few tips from career and life coaches as well as therapists that you can implement to prevent such negative and ultimately unproductive thoughts — and it could be as simple as slowing down and taking five. Ahead, find six specific tricks the experts turn to for clients who experience overthinking at work and give them a try next time you notice yourself going into a self-conscious spiral.
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Start With Reflection
Cynthia Orduña, a career coach based in Los Angeles suggests pausing the moment you notice yourself starting in with such thoughts and try to break down what's actually causing them. "Take some time to think about why you're overthinking and what you're feeling that's blocking you from making a decision," she says.
Part of this process can include a few key questions such as: What am I feeling right now? Where am I feeling that in my body? And are those thoughts kind? "If the answer is no, just take a moment to notice where you mind went, ground yourself, and return to your task," suggests Marina Resa, an LA-based psychotherapist.
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Up Your Self-Confidence
"After you understand the root of the problem, it's time to gain back your confidence," says Orduña, who advises starting by reminding yourself of your value and accomplishments that got you the job in the first place. Write these down and use them as a reference any time these feelings pop up again.
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Plan Ahead
There's only so much you can do, but if you believe a bout of overthinking could have been avoided with more planning, Personal Development Coach Stuart Doughty recommends making a mental note of that, and prioritize planning ahead for future projects or tasks.
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Create A Morning Mantra
"You can only do your best if you truly feel it and believe it, says Orduña, who suggests coming up with a mantra or positive affirmations to start off your work day. And Doughty agrees, offering something as simple as 'I can do this' as an option to give you an instant boost.
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Take A Break
It's easy to get in the habit of pushing yourself too hard at work — but experts say it's actually better to know when to take a break, even if it means simply stepping outside for a few moments of fresh air. "Take some time outdoors, even if it is for a short walk or taking your lunch to a park bench," Resa says. "This allows you to ground yourself and connect with your senses."
How To Avoid Overthinking At Work: Forgive Yourself
Besides giving yourself a literal break, give yourself a metaphorical one. "Above all else, remind yourself that you're human and everyone makes mistakes," Orduña says. "It's not about being perfect all the time, it's about knowing you're going to make mistakes and being ready to adapt and think quickly when they come your way."