Unhook Yourself from Overthinking!

Overthinking is a common problem for ADHD and AuDHD women. And it causes so much suffering when we get caught up in it. In this blog, we introduce some alternative ways of improving our mental flexibility by challenging the ADHD brain’s fear of chaos.

Are you one of us who can easily turn everyday decisions or past awkward situations into Olympic-level mental gymnastics? Do you find yourself engaged in an internal dialogue that would make Shakespeare envious? Do past embarrassments threaten your sanity or your sense of humor? 

Then you are in good company!

Don’t think so much!

Cognitive flexibility, or flexible thinking, is a skill related to how mentally adaptable we are. And also how easy or hard it is for us to shift between different tasks, ideas or processes. It plays a crucial role in problem-solving, creativity, and adapting to new situations.

Sometimes living with ADHD is described as living with a constant threat of an unpredictable erupting chaos. Then organizing your life in strict order could be a strategically smart move.

However, many also find that the other side of a strictly scheduled life can lead to debilitating inflexibility, unspontaneity and perfectionism sucking all joy out of our lives.

Why perfectionism?

So, while some perfectionists are born with a tendency to strive for the stars. Or pick it up from childhood where every gold star or top grade is a measure of your worth.

Many girls and women with ADHD also testify that perfectionism is a way of hiding or overcompensating underlying ADHD problems. 

So, suppose your life is a constant struggle to keep inner chaos at arm’s length. In that case, it’s perhaps not so difficult to understand how threatening it could feel to risk making the wrong decision.

Or maybe doing the wrong thing at the wrong time or missing out on important social cues in a conversation at a party.

My best life hacks

Are we ADHDers doomed to be hooked by previous cringe moments or overthinking everyday decisions? 

Of course not! 

We just published some new life hacks for getting yourself unhooked on Mindhub in the Letterlife-app. Here you’ll find some of mine when I get myself stuck in a mental prison.

The antidote to overthinking:

1. Getting unstuck through Mindfulness

I’ve probably read every word and listened to every recording of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron since I stumbled across her teachings about 15 years ago. 

You might think that 15 years would be enough for a highly motivated neuroscientist and ADHD specialist to master the art of getting unstuck, but no! In that context, I’m still a new beginner. I find mindfulness an extremely important tool to identify and regulate my overall body balance. But I must admit that it’s tough. 

However, I’ve realized that I can always return to some of my favorite teachings where Pema talks about getting hooked. And about the importance of just labeling thoughts and what I’m thinking. 

Over the years her voice has offered me so much comfort so she could probably talk about the art of cultivating your fish tank and it wouldn’t matter. For me, her voice has become the cue to let my overthinking go. And instead, focus on my breath and how my feet feel in my shoes.

2. Let the insights come to you

When I still can’t get control over sticky, and awkward thoughts I try to tell myself that there are some questions or problems that I will never be able to figure out by “thinking”. 

Rather they are things where the answer or insights must “come” to you. These thoughts may have a particularly sticky quality. So I must be extremely aware of when they arrive and risk hooking me. Also, I need to have many different clever ways to get myself “unhooked”. See below 👇

3. Collect several alternatives

My goal is to try and find as many ways to stop overthinking as possible

One day going out for a walk or a run and allowing myself to overthink only when I’m in motion works great. Indeed, research shows that physical exercise may increase cognitive flexibility and psychological resilience. And undoubtedly, many times the problem I was overthinking doesn’t seem so threatening after 45 minutes of jogging.

Sometimes the way to go is rather to lean into the pain of the worst-case scenario that I can imagine. 

On other days I take the easy way out and just distract myself with a Netflix series.

Be kind!

Don’t be too hard on yourself and your ADHD brain. 

Overthinking is only your brain’s backward way of trying to protect you from future embarrassment. If possible, embrace your quirks, but don’t let them tie you up in knots. 

At times, the best defense is just a good laugh about embarrassing moments being a part of being human. 

Explore what tools you need to have in your mental toolbox to feel safe enough to step away from your brain’s replay button. And enjoy the ride of your busy ADHD mind!

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