The Overthinking Mind

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Some, most…ANYONE who knows me will tell you that I am a raging overthinker about everything. I have been criticized for it countless times, told that I am very negative. What people cannot see inside the person who is showing these signs is the deep, personal, internal struggle that the anxiety creates. In addition, these anxious thoughts are often released as what most refer to as overthinking. Understanding, patience and the willingness to help the person who is dealing with these challenges is one of the kindest things you can do for them.

A true overthinking individual can take any subject, situation, meal, decision, trip or pretty much trying to decide which toothpaste to buy into a long, drawn out event. Do I want pizza or a burger? I just had a burger, but this place we’re considering has really good burgers. What if I don’t like the burger and then I’m stuck with it? Should I just make something at home? It would be cheaper and I could make my own burger. It’s so much work to make a burger. It never shuts off.

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Often, friends, loved ones and even strangers will become exasperated with your overthinking. Sure, people will tell you they understand from time to time or try to be patient with it, but more often than not, you are told that you’re a negative person or you “think too much” or some other type of comment. A lot of my overthinking can have negative connotations for sure. Pros and Cons are at the heart of the hyper-analytical. I’ve probably heard a comment about I’m “thinking about it too much…just let it happen” or “stop trying to overthink it, just enjoy” more times than I can count. What is seriously lacking is a true understanding of just what overthinking is and why it happens.

In this thought provoking post by Psychology Today, the topic is discussed at length and gives one an idea of the two types of overthinking, Ruminating and Worrying, and gives a perspective on how they differ from each other. You’ll also find some helpful tips to work towards scaling back with this repetitive thoughts. It’s a difficult process and without support and understanding from either friends, family or a trained therapist (or all three!) it can be a difficult cycle to break. I’m not thrilled by the connection that overthinking individuals aren’t mentally strong, but let’s face it, overthinking is not a healthy part of controlled mental health. Sure, everyone can overanalyze, but when it takes over your life and you spend too much time doing it, it can have quite a negative impact on several facets of your life.

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During times of high stress in my life, the number of times I overthink things rises exponentially. The stress is palpable: Repeating thoughts, upset stomach, headache, difficulty falling asleep, procrastination. Of course, all of these things are not good for our general well-being and can lead to stressful days and sleepless nights. There are a few ways that I try to distract myself when things get stressful and some help a little, others help a lot.

When I feel that I can’t escape the train of thought in my head, I will often take off for the gym and get in a good workout. I might just go for a long walk on a treadmill, challenge myself with the elliptical and make sure to put on some good dance music to lift my mood. The exercise does wonders for reducing stress, minimizing distractions and naturally, you’re benefitting yourself by getting out and active. That isn’t always possible. Sometimes, I’m home with a sick child or I have plans that prevent my going to the gym. On those occasions, I try to do a few different things.

When I’m stuck at home, relief can be as simple as using an app. I’ve tried the Calm app (not an affiliate, just liked it) and some of its free offerings, but you do need to remember to open it and take advantage of what it offers. You don’t NEED an app to practice calming breaths, but it’s a good place to start if you would like some guided help. I don’t subscribe, so maybe I’m not getting enough out of the program.

Talking about what you’re overthinking about should always be an option, but there are times when you might not be understood and that can “backfire”. I would never suggest NOT talking about what’s bothering you, but what I like to do first, if I remember, is to write the issue down, just let it all out, and then think (ugh, overthink probably) about the best way to present the issue. You don’t want to alienate yourself over the issue, but finding balance is key. Let the person you’re discussing the issue with know if you are feeling vulnerable and are looking for some friendly suggestions about the issue you can’t let go of. Let them know you appreciate their time and ideas and how it’s helping you. Be sure to use “I feel” statements like we’ve all been told as to not make the other person feel attacked. This can be a challenge, as overthinking can lead to rambling statements that might not be well thought out in advance.

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In the end, whether you go for a walk, get out your paintbrush, put on your headphones and dance around the house or sit down for a long chat with your therapist, there are many ways that you can develop healthy outlets for overthinking. I struggle with it on a regular basis, but the most important thing to me is to surround myself with people who will listen, understand and be there for me when the chips are down and I can’t solve a problem. You are the only person who can seek out change in yourself. Don’t depend on others to solve your problems, but always feel free to ask for help implementing something that you think might make things better. Never give up and don’t ever feel like you are “wrong” for overthinking. It’s a part of who you are and a part of your journey.

 

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