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Sinead Keenan


Chief Innovation Officer

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Understand your ‘overthinking’ and use it to your advantage

Sinead Keenan, Chief Innovation Officer at EZRA, explores how the key to managing your overthinking is understanding it.

Research shows that overthinking – whether it’s in our personal or professional lives – can have detrimental effects on our well-being, mental and physical health. 

From heightened stress and anxiety to lower self-esteem and productivity, there’s a fine line between what constitutes constructive critical thinking to make more informed decisions versus overthinking. 

Critical thinking typically revolves around a clear purpose, focused outcomes and is bounded by logic while overthinking tends to encompass the opposite.

State of the organisation

And as we all continue to navigate an ever-evolving workplace, a whole new set of anxieties has begun to settle in for employees and leaders alike. The rise of virtual communication tools has removed the ability to read the expression and body language of co-workers. 

Ongoing global layoffs have resulted in heavier workloads, more ambiguity and greater uncertainty leaving some to obsess about all possible scenarios and outcomes beyond their control. Many leaders are now also consumed by the impact hybrid and “return to office” policies are having on their workforce. 

Are these valid concerns? Absolutely. However, when we allow ourselves to overthink, it can feel like a weakness, allowing our “inner critic” to wade in and punish us for something that happened, or make us think about what is yet to come. 

Your inner critic can be harsh but is also usually trying to protect you – often from fear of failure or shame.

Rumination is generally unhelpful

The key to managing your overthinking is understanding it. It comes in different forms, each with the potential to be reframed into a positive activity, rather than a self-deprecating intrusion of thought. There are typically three main types of overthinking:


This involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings. Rumination could result from a situation at work when we should or shouldn’t have said something, making a mistake or forgetting an important task. 

The memory of this is triggered in our brains causing ‘flashbacks’ that can come through at any time of day or night, stopping us in our tracks or disrupting our concentration. 

Rumination is generally unhelpful – unless we are able to take lessons from it and put it to bed. If you think you’re a serial ruminator, a question you can ask yourself is “What is this telling me I care about?” followed by “What can I do about it?” 

For example, if you are continuously worrying that you’ve made a mistake at work, instead of punishing yourself for it, see it as how much you care and value your work. The care you take is something to be celebrated, and the mistake you made is a learning that has aided your own development. This is why mistakes are often regarded as some of the best “teachers.”


Worrying, in the context of overthinking, is spending more than necessary time considering things that are in the future. It's helpful when it leads to action, but most of the time, we tend to worry about things out of our control. Two techniques have been proven to be useful here:

  • Worry time: this is allowing ourselves a portion of the day where we let our worries run free, write them down to get them out of our head, see if we can do anything about them now, and if not, leave them until our next “worry time.”
  • Coming back to the present: getting ourselves out of the past or future is helpful to keep us in the “here and now.” There are many techniques like mindfulness, breathing exercises and journaling – some work for us and others don't. A helpful metaphor can be to think about your worries as carriages of a train passing as we stand on a platform. We can watch them go by, but we do not have to get on that train.

having an unbiased external party to act as a sounding board like a professional coach can help us reflect

Decision making

This is, perhaps, a more practical and in-the-moment way we can overthink. Overthinking when making decisions tends to happen to people who we call “maximizers” – they want to make the best decision possible, so they exhaust all possibilities to make sure they do. We can't do this all the time but should for very important decisions.

Most of the time it's better to be a “satisficer” which includes setting out our decision criteria and making our decision as soon as we find a solution. Forcing ourselves to satisfice and see the positive benefits of the decision and time saved, can help us do it more often.

Start with understanding 

Understanding what drives our overthinking and employing the right techniques to address them is an ongoing process in our personal and professional development. 

Sometimes, having an unbiased external party to act as a sounding board like a professional coach can help us reflect on our thoughts, understand their impact and recenter ourselves for a positive path forward. 

It’s ultimately all about getting to the bottom of what makes us tick and then determining how to best use it to our advantage.

Interested in this topic? Read How pressing pause can promote clarity of mind and prevent burnout

Author Profile Picture
Sinead Keenan

Chief Innovation Officer

Read more from Sinead Keenan

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