How do I find my purpose and stop overthinking everything?
Asked by Guy123
Thank you for reaching out with your question. It sounds as though overthinking and lacking purpose have lead to your emotions being all over the place and your anger is pent up. You notice your emotions, but it sounds as if you can’t work out what to do with them. There are emotional consequences in not feeling happy and physical ones you may be aware of too. Though you have a sense of what might be causing this- your location, job, and issues with your partner's past and family, it is hard for me to get a sense of what triggers you the most. The most important thing to know is that this is how you feel, it is your reality, and it is valid. At the moment, working out why you feel this way and how to change it is hard, which is why counselling can help.
It can be helpful to set goals that feel manageable when you are overthinking. When we have an expectation that is unrealistic of ourselves and that is asking too much, it can be aspirational, but unrealistic expectations seem to get in the way of consistency at least as often as they support it. For example, when it comes to anger, it would be difficult to get rid of anger completely, but it can be soothed in manageable ways.
Sometimes, our expectations and plans can be so lofty we forget where we are and don't take into consideration how we feel, it is disempowering. Might it be you have good reason to be angry? What are the consequences of dismissing your emotions? As an alternative, we can create a simple list of things you feel able to do that moves you towards the general direction of your goal. This could be something like noticing what triggers your anger responses to bring them into greater awareness.
Organic growth over time identifies what we can do with the resources we have. It helps us appreciate that our energy levels change, and our resilience can ebb and grow. And anything that gets us to happily show up every day is the mechanism- expectations that are too high lead to feeling like we want to shut down.
Other times, it might be we don’t think we can talk openly about the thoughts and emotions that are occupying us; from the past, present or future, with the people around us. For example, addressing the issues you have with your partner and their family. If we don’t feel we have the right words to explain how we feel, why would anyone listen? This is where therapy can help. Counsellors provide a third party, non-judgemental approach to what you are feeling, so you can find a language to help express yourself.
Even if it feels overwhelming and painful, thinking and talking about significant feelings, events or thoughts that trouble you may help you process them. Depending on how strong you feel about these events, going through the process with a counsellor is highly advisable.
Thinking about how to find motivation when scared is hard, though and it might be helpful to consider the following:
• Sleep is often the first thing to change or deteriorate when we are overwhelmed. Ideally, aiming for 7-9 hours’ sleep is important. If you are having difficulty sleeping, a counsellor can help you explore why this might be and how it could improve.
• Being active can improve physical health and mental health as well. You said you find physical activity helpful and there are lots of things you can do depending on how much energy you feel you have, including brief activities whilst the kettle boils or dinner cooks.
• Maintaining connection with friends and/ or family can help. Humans have evolved as sociable animals, meaning connection helps us feel grounded and connected to what is happening around us.
• Creativity is also important- a favorite piece of music, art work or expressive art can reduce anxiety. Writing, drawing, creating for yourself has been shown to connects you with more positive emotions, plus gives you something to look forward to and activities that aren’t the main stress factors of your life. Some music won’t help of course- fast and irregular tempos as in dance music or aggressive lyrics may (but not always) make things worse.
Overthinking can also be known as dwelling, which takes us away from the resources we have. It can be helpful to think about the things you can control in each situation. Taking action to control how you respond when angry is a good example of this. You can control how you respond to people and yourself. Counselling can help with this, as certain types of therapy can help empower you to see the choices you do have and why you feel anxious since your panic attacks, too.
By focusing on what you can and are able to do, this moves the thought processes away from dwelling, to actively doing what you can. There are situations you cannot control, for example, we cannot control people. We also cannot control how others respond to us, though in both cases, we can control our emotional and thought responses to them. This can be hard to do and is another example of where therapy can help provide support.
Actively working with how you feel and your emotions is important. How you feel right now, is how you feel, it is important you work to avoid suppressing or avoiding this, which will only increase your belief that you cannot handle overthinking. Even if the situation is not one you can control, you can still work with your emotions to address how it makes you feel. This can reduce anxious and stressful feelings.
It is not uncommon to adopt behaviors to try to cope with feeling uncomfortable. As well as overthinking, it might be that you need constant reassurance, or even to avoid situations. However, these strategies do not prevent the unknown from happening.
Challenging these behaviors may help reduce the need to dwell. Each time you are faced with uncertainty, consider what the advantages of not knowing are as well as the disadvantages. Not all uncertainty is bad, but perhaps it doesn’t feel like that right now? Learning to sit with uncertainty helps with being able to respond to what is happening in front of you, adapting and overcoming the challenge.
Sometimes, our thoughts convince us that certainty gives us control in a situation, but what does certainty really bring? No matter how certain we feel about something, it can always change. So, craving certainty does not make it certain, but it does leave you feeling anxious. Within this, try to consider what your need is to reason your thoughts? Does uncertainty mean something bad will happen? Or does it mean something bad will happen because you think it will? Even if something bad does happen, does that mean you won’t be able to cope with it? It might not sound easy but try not to underestimate yourself. You do have the resources to cope when things go well or badly. What would it be like to ask a friend or family member how they cope with uncertainty? Likewise, if it were a friend struggling with uncertainty, what would you say to them?
It is important to allow yourself to feel the effects of your thoughts and work through them. It may feel uncomfortable, and it will pass eventually. It can be helpful to think of ways to find it believable that the discomfort will pass, too. Focusing on the present, what is going on around you, will help you feel and experience the what is happening in the present rather than your thoughts about it. Staying present, or grounding, is a group of techniques that can be learnt either through counseling or internet tutorials, to help with this.
So, overthinking and lacking purpose are not easy to experience, but it is all around every day- focusing on yourself, what you can make certain, can challenge and can feel are all important strategies in preventing how you feel when things overwhelm you.
(MA, Counselling, Cognitive, Behaviour, Therapy, Level, 5, PGDIP, Integrative, Counselling)