Do you find yourself contemplating a single moment for days on end? Rehearsing a split second remark, choice of words or glance over and over again? Don’t you wish you could rid your mind of all the second guessing and scrutinizing? Does this sound like an infomercial yet? All questions aside, there’s no doubt in my mind that many of our readers suffer from the acutely widespread infirmity of overthinking. If I’m incorrect in my assumption, I know that you’ve at least listened to a friend ponder, analyze and question incessantly, all the while wondering to yourself when it will end and what you can say to make it stop.
Other than being a complete waste of perfectly productive thinking time, overanalyzing is often an altogether negative activity. The longer you question a given scenario, the more room you leave for damaging conclusions. Without sounding like a self-help expert or a Dr. Phil episode, I believe that taking the time to become aware of a habit like overthinking is important, and having the ability to control it will make room for fresh and fruitful reasoning. Tina Fey once said, “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” While I’m sure you spend your time analyzing more serious situations, the premise of it all is right there in her words. Overthinking will get you nowhere. If you haven’t thought of whatever you’re searching for already, it’s not going to magically appear amidst your ridiculous assumptions and doubts. The key to stopping this futile process is in the following steps, and if I’m wrong, then at least I’ve distracted you for a few moments.
1. Acknowledge If you’ve ever stopped and said the words “am I overthinking this?” You probably are. Once you’re aware of the process, you’ll begin to notice yourself doing it more and more. Instead of brushing off the label you’ve given your activity, stop yourself from continuing and be aware of it the next time it happens …and the next time.
2. Don’t Assume This is probably the most toxic thought process out there. Making assumptions about people or situations is incredibly unproductive, and most of the time we don’t even know we’re making them. Be conscious of the thoughts you have…are they fact, or is that wild imagination of yours secretly at play? The more overthinking you do, the more assumptions you’ll likely make.
3. Talk it Through Of course there’s no way around actually tackling a subject that’s bothering you. But if you keep it in rather than talk it through, it will remain in your puzzled brain for way too long. Discuss things with someone who’s removed from the situation and make it brief. Overthinking can happen out loud too!
4. Get a Hobby If you’re at the point where your thinking process is overworked and unproductive, do something that you love to get your mind off things. Go for a run, write a blog post, read a book, cook a meal…whatever it takes to get your head out of the gutter.
5. Tackle the Problem If the thing you’re contemplating is a serious matter that you truly can’t shake, tackle it head on rather than mulling it over for weeks. Call the friend who upset you, approach your boyfriend about his behavior, write a letter, do whatever it takes. You may find out the person never knew this was an issue.
6. Forget about Perfection A lot of thinking time is spent worrying about our behaviour, our words or any other possible formula of situations. Remember that nobody’s perfect and fretting about the past will truly get you nowhere. Many of the mistakes you make will be forgotten by others, only to remain on your list of regrets. Try not to put yourself up on a pedestal, you have plenty of time for redemption.
7. Be Proactive If there’s anything good that can come out of overthinking, it’s a lesson. If you feel bad about your behavior, take a mental note for next time, and then move on. Feeling sorry for something you can’t resolve is, again, pointless.
8. Look Ahead Remember when you were in high school and every crush, every exam, every argument seemed so monumental? As much as those teenage years are our most dramatic, we don’t really stop thinking that way. When you’re worrying about something, thinking about how important it will be in 6 months might help calm you down. Remember, it’s all relative.
Evidently, there are certain thoughts that you’ll never escape, some more serious than others. But no matter what, controlling the time you spend analyzing a problem is definitely something you can tackle and managing unhealthy thoughts is important for your mental health. There’s nothing worse than wasting your time on a problem you’ve assumed exists, and keeping it all in will only make your habits worse. While quitting cold turkey is definitely not an option, limiting the time you spend scrutinizing is completely feasible …in a nutshell.