One of the most common things I hear from teens is, “I just totally overthink!” A teen’s overthinking mind can take them down a rabbit hole of what-ifs. They begin to create elaborate stories about people and situations, convincing themselves that what their overthinking mind tells them is the truth. When caught in thinking-overdrive, worry and stress soon follow, weighing teens down and clouding their judgment of best next steps.
“Overthinking: The art of creating problems that weren’t even there.”
Teens need tools to tame their overthinking minds and turn wild, outlandish thoughts into constructive actions. When they learn how to control their mind, they will feel more control over their lives. The next steps become clear, solutions surface, and often debilitating emotional reactions soften and fade.
I use this simple and effective practice when coaching teens in taming their so-called “monkey mind.” Sometimes I refer to it as a lasso for the mind. It’s used to catch the aimless, useless, and worrisome thoughts and turn them into positive action. Give it a try with your teen or invite her to try it on her own.
Step 1: Declutter. Write anything and everything that’s on your mind. You can write in a list, paragraph, or spiral. Anything goes, just keep writing until your brain feels completely empty.
Step 2: Ask yourself, “If I missed something, what would it be?”
Step 3: Cross off any item on your list that you cannot change or control. Take a deep breath. There is no need to think about what you can’t change or control.
Step 4: Identify the items on your list that you made up, those that you can’t prove to be true. These are your assumptions, guesses, and what-ifs. Like the items you can’t control, it’s not helpful to think about items that aren’t even true!
Step 5: Highlight or circle the items on your list that really bug you or that your mind comes back to again and again.
Step 6: For each circled or highlighted item, think of one action you can take to create a change. Remember that actions can be big or small steps, and one of the most powerful could be letting go.
This process may need to be repeated and each time, there will be more and more relief and a sense of control.