- MIchele A. Aeck BS MS PhD
How to Stop Overthinking and Start Trusting Your Gut
Are you an over-thinker? Do you spiral out of control and can’t seem to get out of your head with issues that just keep going in circles? Intuition is frequently dismissed as woo-woo, mystical, or unreliable, but there’s a deep physiological basis for it. When you approach a decision intuitively, your brain works in alignment with your gut to quickly assess all your memories, past learnings, personal needs, and preferences and then makes the wisest choice given the context.
Here are some strategies to learn how to leverage your intuition as a helpful decision-making tool in your personal and professional life.
1) Discern gut feeling from fear:
Fear tends to be a constricting bodily sensation where you feel anxious, panicky, tense, or desperate. Fear has a pushing energy as if you’re trying to force something. Fear is dominated by self-critical thoughts that compel you to hide, conform or compromise yourself.
On the flip side, intuition has a pulling energy where you feel your choice is moving you toward your best interest. You feel excited, have anticipation or ease and contentment. Physically, gut feelings tend to cause your body to relax. Your inner voice is grounded and wise, like a good mentor.
2) Start by making minor decisions:
Taking quick, decisive actions with small consequences gets you comfortable using your intuition. By starting small, you relieve feelings of being overwhelmed and you can gradually step your way up to larger decisions with greater self-trust.
3) Test drive your choices:
You can try a simple flipping a coin test and then consider how you feel about the answer. If heads have the meaning of declining a big deal, do you feel joy and relief? Or worry and dread?
4) Try the snap judgment test:
Another quick test is writing a question on a piece of paper such as, “will taking the promotion make me happy?” List yes or no below the question. Leave a pen by the paper. After a few hours, come back and immediately circle your answer. It might not be an answer you like, especially if the question is a big one, but there’s a good chance that you forced yourself to respond honestly.
5) Fall back on your values:
Your core values represent what’s most important to you. Examples include freedom, diversity, stability, family, integrity, or calmness. If you value honesty and you’re feeling bodily tension because you’re not sharing your true feelings on an important issue, use your values to check-in and figure out what feels off internally and gain perception on the situation.
In summary, keep in mind that intuition can’t blossom in busy, stressful environments. Give your mind space to wander and make connections. While intuition is not perfect, it’s also a decision-making tool in your arsenal that you’re likely underutilizing. Give these strategies a try, and you’ll probably be surprised to find that your “gut check” is a more powerful decision-making tool than you may have realized.