Overcoming overthinking and embracing Joy 

My childhood was pretty wild, to be honest.

Mum suffered from bipolar disorder as well as epilepsy. Her seizures were physically violent and scary for me to witness while also taking a huge toll on her. I was often the first responder so naturally I was constantly in fear of her mortality.  This whole stress and anxiety combo pretty much defined my childhood.

Mum had so much to deal with and did her best when she could but because in those days mental health was still not much of a conversation there was no real help for mum. As a result our home was like a rollercoaster ride. Mum’s mood swings dictated how our day went, and it was impossible to predict. I was always tiptoeing around, trying to keep the peace. To deal with all that chaos, I became the family peacekeeper. I’d bury my own needs and feelings just to make sure everyone was happy and things stayed calm.

Living like that turned me into a chronic worrier. I was always on the edge, expecting the worst possible things to happen. It’s probably when my overthinking habits first kicked in. My brain was in constant overdrive, overanalyzing everything and trying to anticipate what was going to happen and how people felt. I’d imagine every possible bad scenario in a situation, ready for the worst news I believed was bound to come. That anxiety just made everything worse, often spiralling into full-blown panic attacks, complete with headaches and feeling nauseous.

How overthinking affected me

As I got older, making decisions became this epic struggle. I couldn’t stop second-guessing every choice I had to make. I dreaded screwing up because I believed it would ruin my whole life. I’d ask a bunch of friends for advice, but that just left me more confused and stressed. I had zero confidence in my ability to choose anything, even things as simple as picking a restaurant or deciding what to wear to a party, not to mention the big life decisions.

One memory that sticks out from my early twenties is wanting to travel solo so badly but lacking the guts to do it. Instead, I thought about volunteering abroad, but the sheer number of options and costs drove me nuts. I spent months debating and drowning in a sea of “what ifs.” What if I hated it? What if I ran out of cash? What if I couldn’t pay my bills back home? I never once considered that things might actually turn out really well. All that worrying robbed me of the joy of going after my dreams and stopped me from taking the leap. Insert self criticism and major disappointment.

My quest for the perfect choice would leave me stuck, going for what I thought I “should” do rather than what I really wanted. I felt like the life I truly craved was always just out of reach, and it made me feel aimless and trapped.

I was always flip-flopping between being super anxious and feeling totally unmotivated. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t handle life’s challenges like everyone else could. I’d compare myself to those confident, self-assured people I knew and wished I could be more like them.

In my mid-twenties, things took a darker turn. I fell into a deep depression, and I had to take medication because of all the anxiety that had piled up over the years. That period brought even more challenges, like dealing with addiction, getting into messed-up relationships with narcissistic partners, and even hurting myself at times. It was a seriously tough time in my life.

The healing begins

My journey to healing started when my doctor suggested I try counselling. Little did I know, this would lead me down a path of self-discovery, yoga, and eventually, understanding the mysteries of my nervous system.

I vividly recall the first time I heard about the vagus nerve, and it was a lot like how yoga suddenly appeared on my radar. It seemed to be everywhere – social media, emails, podcast recommendations – you name it. Curiosity got the better of me, and I tuned in to a podcast episode about it. That’s when my world changed. This unassuming nerve hidden in my body turned out to be the key to breaking free from the constant inner turmoil that had plagued me for years – the relentless stress, anxiety, and self-doubt.

As I delved deeper into the realm of the nervous system, I was struck by its profound influence on our daily lives. It was such an epiphany for me –  most of my self-criticism, the feeling of never being good enough or strong enough, wasn’t a reflection of who I truly am. It was the result of a nervous system that was out of whack. This was a major epiphany for me! Realising this was like lifting a heavy burden; I had been so hard on myself for so long, but now I saw it wasn’t my fault!

My childhood experiences and the ever-present anxiety from an early age had kept my nervous system in a perpetual state of high alert. I was always on edge, stuck in fight-or-flight mode, and it had become my default setting. Recognizing this was a game-changer; it wasn’t about lacking inner strength but rather a consequence of my dysregulated nervous system.

How to heal overthinking

Then came the revelation: I could listen to the cues my nervous system was sending me. Overthinking? That was a sign of stress, a protection mechanism my system had formed to keep me safe. Armed with this knowledge, I began practising mindful breathing and journaling to immediately help regulate my nervous system. And that’s when the real transformation began.

Taking on the patterns I’d carried for so long – moulding myself to fit others’ expectations, overcommitting, and never saying no – was the next step. It was astounding how much my stress levels dropped. Most of my stress was rooted in self-doubt, self-criticism, and endless overthinking. Learning to regulate myself changed my entire perspective on life.

I realised that figuring out how to regulate my nervous system was the key to addressing all the stuff I’d been struggling with. It was like the secret sauce to dealing with my overthinking, that inner critic that just wouldn’t quit, and those days when I’d swing from super high stress to feeling totally unmotivated and down in the dumps.

What really hit me was that nervous system regulation wasn’t just a quick fix you do before jumping back into your day. It became a whole way of life. I started incorporating mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, and putting in the effort to heal old wounds and change my behaviour. It became my lifestyle.

Once I got the hang of these core aspects of regulation and started using the tools and techniques I’d picked up, it was like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. That constant state of anxiety I’d been stuck in for what felt like forever gradually turned into a sense of calm, presence, and confidence.

From overthinking to joy!

One of the most valuable things I learned was how to combat that never-ending overthinking and self-doubt. I can now catch myself in those moments, see what’s going on in my mind, and then decide not to get tangled up in it. It was such a relief at first. Finally, I was steering my own thoughts instead of being pushed around by whatever crazy idea popped into my head. Nowadays, I hardly ever overthink, and if I do, I can quickly recognize it and change my thought track.

Most of the time, I’m ready to take on the day. I feel empowered instead of anxious. That empowerment comes from knowing I have these tools to recognize when I’m getting overwhelmed, overthinking, or falling into self-criticism, and I know how to get back on track.

The big internal shift I experienced means my mind is a lot quieter these days. There’s room for creativity and actually feeling joy! Something that had eluded me for a long time. One of the most beautiful things that happened on my journey to regulation was the spontaneous outbursts of joy I started having – I affectionately called them “Joygasms.” I clearly remember one such moment during a work trip to the Coromandel. I pulled over at a scenic spot, and as I looked at the breathtaking view, waves of joy just bubbled up inside me. They got stronger until I was completely wrapped in pure happiness. Tears of joy streamed down my face, and I felt this unburdened sense of gratitude for the beauty around me.

And now…..

This profound journey inspired me to create my coaching program, “Stress be gone! The career woman’s guide to overcoming overthinking.” I strongly believe that nervous system awareness should be taught in schools, but sadly, it’s not. So, I wanted to share the empowering wisdom I gained along my path, so others could experience the same joy, freedom, and personal empowerment that I now cherish.

Today, I feel like a powerful fortress in control of my life. I can recognize stress creeping in, understand its root causes, and quickly bring myself back to balance. It’s an incredible feeling, and I want everyone I meet to experience it too. Life is too short to be weighed down by stress, and I’m here to help others discover their own path to wellness and joy.

Written by billee white

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