Anxious During Divorce? You Might Be Overthinking Things

By Sarah Allen, Ph.D, Psychologist who specializes in empowering women

There are many things that can make a person feel anxious during divorce. One of them is overthinking things. Do you find yourself reading too much into situations or spending too much time trying to make decisions? You are likely overthinking things and it is probably not helpful to your emotional well-being.

Here are 4 signs that suggest you overthink things:

1. You Ruminate

A clear sign you are overthinking is that you spend a lot of time ruminating (going over and over the same thing in your head) about things that have happened in the past. You pick over situations and conversations in your brain that could have happened last night or perhaps several years ago, and yet you are still thinking about it. It is exhausting. You are wasting your emotional energy thinking about it and it can leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained, and can you to be more anxious during divorce.

Ask yourself is there actually anything you can do about it now. Can you go to the person and ask them why they did what they did or can you say to the person now what you wish you had said then? When I ask my ruminating clients these questions they usually laugh and say no, it’s too long ago or they would think I am being silly.

If you don’t want to or can’t change anything about it then you have to accept whatever it is you are overthinking is in the past, you can learn from it if a similar situation comes up again and but you can’t change it so let it go! Try to focus on something you can change instead.

2. You’re Not Emotionally Present Around Others

Overthinking things can lead to you spending a lot of time in your head, which means you’re not completely emotionally present when you are around others. If you are focusing on your thoughts rather than the person in front of you, it can make them feel that you are not interested in them or what they are saying to you, which of course can be detrimental to the relationship.

Try to catch yourself if you are doing that and instead ground yourself by really focusing on the person you are with or your surroundings. Bring your attention to how your feet feel strong as they press into the ground, focus on actually listening to what the person is saying, notice what other sounds or things you can see in the room. Bringing your focus back into your body, the environment you are in and the person you are with gets your out of your head therefore making you more present.

3. You Don’t Sleep Well

Another sign that you are an overthinker is that you are sleep deprived because your ruminations are stopping you falling asleep or are waking you up in the middle of the night. When you are anxious during divorce, and when you are overtired, you become more emotional, anger more easily and have less focus and concentration which can hurt your functioning and relationships in real life, not the imaginary life of your thoughts.

You can overcome this by setting aside a time each evening that you sit down and write out the things you are thinking about. This can clear your head for when you are trying to sleep.

4. You Let Your Anxiety Hold You Back

You really know that overthinking is holding you back when anxiety prevents you from doing things or moving forward in your life. Usually this involves thoughts about “What if?” and then thoughts about all the things that could possibly go wrong.

In cognitive therapy we call this type of negative thought pattern ‘catastrophizing’. You go to all sorts of worse- case scenario and that can make you very stuck and scared. I always think a good way to challenge this is to ask yourself “What is the worst thing that can happen?”. Catastrophizing thoughts are attached to very strong emotions as fear whips up our adrenaline system. However, if you breathe (to calm down the adrenaline) you can rationally challenge your thoughts and find that the worse things probably isn’t nearly as bad as your emotions suggest and that you could cope with them.

To overcome this pattern, take a problem-solving approach. Identify what is holding you back and what small steps you can take to overcome the problem. Rather than just going around and around thinking about it, take action in a way that is not too much outside of your comfort zone.


anxious during divorce

Dr. Sarah Allen is a psychologist who specializes in empowering women to live the life they want. She sees clients in her Northbrook office or throughout Illinois via telephone or Skype sessions. This article was originally published on Sarah’s blog.


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