Overthinking can disrupt our ability to relax, lead to self-doubt and self-confidence issues, and even manifest physically, causing a lack of sleep or digestive problems. Over the 12 engaging lessons of Overcome Your Overthinking, acclaimed meditation and yoga teacher Dr. Heidi Sormaz, who has a PhD in psychology from Yale University with an emphasis on cognitive psychology, not only provides the science behind cognitive behavioral therapy, but she’ll also arm you with a toolbox of exercises and techniques that are most effective at breaking the spell of overthinking.
Overcome Your Overthinking
Dr. Heidi E. Sormaz is the founder, owner, and director of Fresh Yoga LLC in New Haven, Connecticut. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley. She taught psychology at Yale, San Francisco State University, and Albertus Magnus College. Dr. Sormaz obtained the highest teaching credentials from both Forrest Yoga and Yoga Alliance.
In her academic work, Dr. Sormaz is an expert on the influence of arousal and attention on performance, the effects of anxiety on thinking, stress management, and performance in pressure situations. Her publications include the book Performance under Pressure: Managing Stress in the Workplace, published by HRD Press, and the article "Meditation Can Reduce Habitual Responding," published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Dr. Sormaz was awarded the Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Award from Case Western Reserve University and the Wilhelm Wundt Award at the Northeast Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference.
In addition to teaching yoga in her own studio, she has presented workshops and teacher trainings at conferences and studios across the United States, including Kripalu and the Esalen Institute. Yoga Journal featured Dr. Sormaz on its list of "teachers who are shaping yoga's future" from across America.
01: Are You an Overthinker?
Get a foundational overview of what makes a thinker become an overthinker. Heidi introduces you to the most common forms of overthinking and to a new way of working with your thoughts when they interfere with your life. This lesson includes a short, seated exercise.
02: Conquer the Illusion of Control
Heidi helps you take a long, hard look at what you can and cannot control in your life—while demonstrating that spending time thinking about the things you cannot control leads to unproductive thoughts. This lesson introduces “name it, to tame it”, a short exercise meant to interrupt the habits of the mind.
03: Interrupt the Emotional Cascade
By looking at how our physiology and psychology intertwine, Heidi shows us how easy it is to spin into a spiral of unproductive thoughts—and why it can be physically impossible to calm yourself down once you start. This lesson introduces you to the mindfulness practice referred to as vedanā.
04: Engage Your Body to Stop Overthinking
See how unlike taking a run or going to the gym, practicing yoga is not a distraction or an avoidance, it’s a way to approach and address part of the emotional cascade. Heidi demonstrates how yoga soothes your system by changing your breath and connects your physical and mental state. This lesson introduces you to basic and accessible yoga poses and practices.
05: Simple Yoga to Calm the Mind
Move on to some more sophisticated techniques that can help demonstrate the power of yoga as Heidi introduces movements that challenge and work the core muscles that are associated with breathing. She’ll also provide alternative techniques, stretches, poses, and breathing exercises that can be done any at any time. They have many similar benefits to a full, 30-minute yoga session. This lesson introduces you to yoga postures.
06: Practice Mindfulness for Self-Soothing
Heidi builds upon the concept of soothing our system by deliberately changing the pattern of our attention through mindfulness meditation, and introduces different approaches to meditation. She also provides insight into how to practice both concentration and mindfulness. This lesson introduces you to some seated meditation techniques.
07: Try the Power of Yin Yoga
Combine the soothing elements of compassion practice with the physiological calm created by yoga, in a more passive form of yoga called yin yoga. Heidi demonstrates how this practice involves holding your body in a position for anywhere between three to five minutes, and then you settle, or relax your muscles, with gravity, toward the floor. This lesson introduces you to yin yoga techniques and meditation with mettā.
08: Name and Tame Your Emotions
Circle back to the importance of emotions as Heidi reminds us that recognizing our emotions sounds easy enough, but most of us have made a habit of avoiding emotions, out of fear that they’ll be unpleasant. Revisit why moving toward thoughts and emotions, instead of away, is how we change our habit of overthinking. This lesson introduces you to some new mindful practices such as a body scan and emotion labels.
09: Express Gratitude to Change Your Thinking
Shift your perspective to look at the importance of practicing gratitude in your life. Heidi shows how our brain can’t focus on positive and negative information at the same time. So, by consciously practicing gratitude, we can train the brain to be selectively focusing on positive emotions and thoughts, which reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.
10: Think Clearly with Cognitive Restructuring
Heidi introduces the technique from cognitive therapy called cognitive restructuring. This is a deliberate reappraisal of your thoughts, or simply changing your thoughts by thinking about them differently. It’s not easy, but Heidi provides some helpful tips and techniques, including words to be aware of and questions to ask yourself before you go down a rabbit-hole of assumptions.
11: Solve Problems More Effectively
Many people believe that by overthinking about an issue, they are working on solving their problem. Heidi spends this lecture showing that overthinking is the opposite. It keeps you stuck in the problem, likely making it worse. She provides some tools that can help you change your thoughts to effective problem-solving, such as goal setting and writing out your situation.
12: Cultivate an Upward Spiral
Backed up by scientific research, Heidi demonstrates how deliberately broadening your attention changes the content of your thoughts for the better. The more claustrophobically we view our situation, the more we obsess about how to control or fix it. She provides a final set of tools that can help you widen your attention and perspective and shift you into an upward spiral.