You’re laying in bed one night, trying to get to sleep because Lord knows you’ve got an early day tomorrow. Although your body is physically tired, you mind can’t seem to slow down. Suddenly, you begin thinking about all of the things that you DIDN’T get done today, and how that work load will carry over into tomorrows tasks. *CRAP!!!!* You forgot you have to pick your kid up from soccer practice at 4 tomorrow, so it’s also a short day and your boss isn’t going to be happy with you for getting so behind on work. How are you going to get it all done? What if you get fired? What is that pain in your back from? Is it stress? *OMG!!!!* What if it isn’t?!?!
And then before you know it, you’ve worked yourself up over a few menial tasks that will eventually get done.
I don’t know who all is guilty of it, but I know for certain that I am. Over-thinking has fed my depression and anxiety more times than not, and I have actually worked myself up so much that it physically impacted me. It’s kind of like the concept that when you hear of someone having lice, you start to itch and you feel gross, like you need a shower or something, even though you were never exposed to lice. It’s a psychological concept, and it effects us physically.
What IS over-thinking? Well, let’s break that down. The term itself seems to be just that: thinking too much. But really, you are not thinking anymore than you normally do. You are just allowing yourself to think about many things at once, causing you to forget what your original concern was. I don’t know about you, but I can go from trying to figure out what I am having for dinner to googling elements of a black hole in seconds. I know, it’s extreme, but it is true! Some may call it the “squirrel” or “shiny penny” effect.
Think of over-thinking like this:
You are cleaning out your attic, and in your attic there are a ton of boxes. You need to decide what stays and what goes, so you HAVE to open each box and sort through it. Now, are you going to open every box right away and spend a few seconds sorting through each one, in no particular order? Or are you going to open one at a time, make a pile of “stay” and a pile of “go”, and then move on to the next box? Ideally, you’d choose the latter. But when we over-think, we are tearing into all of those boxes and trying to sort out EVERYTHING all at once, and we simply cannot do it. It’s not possible.
Unfortunately, it is mostly women who have this issue. Men are more capable of the box-to-box method of sorting. Know why? It’s because they’re already simple-minded by nature. This is not to say that women aren’t capable of organizing our thoughts, but women, by nature, have more to consider. To simplify, a woman’s attic is probably full of boxes. A man’s attic only has like 5 boxes and they are labeled “food”, “work”, “things that need fixed”, and then the other two are labelled “sex”. Those boxes are probably already organized anyway. And at the least, the men probably forgot they were even there.
Not us women though. We have too much on our plates as it is, and we tend to bite off more than we can chew at times. Granted, we do it all because we want to! But when it comes down to it, we can organize our houses, our closets, our flowerbeds, our office space, but it is inherently difficult to organize our thoughts. There are no color-coded tabs or highlighters that we can use to sub-categorize our thoughts and emotions, and that is OK.
Over-thinking comes in all forms. Things that have happened in the past can cause you to over-think and concoct a situation that never even happened. Those are the worst, in my opinion. In any case, the only person entertaining those thoughts is you, and you have the power to control it.
While I can’t tell you how to stop over-thinking completely, I can provide a few tips that have helped me stack on track throughout the week without getting too distracted by “shiny pennies”:
1.) Chamomile tea – Chamomile is made up of relaxing herbs that are proven to reduce stress and help you sleep.
2.) Read a good book – Reading a cliffhanger is always a good way to focus your mind on something interesting, and escape reality for a bit.
3.) Put your phone down – This probably should have been #1. We are addicted to our phones and social media. Ditch it for a few hours and pick up some paint or a craft.
4.) Call up some girlfriends – Go have brunch, or treat yourself to a fun weekend out on the town with some good friends! It’s hard to stress when you’re having a blast.
5.) Write or talk – I always write down what I am feeling when I get overwhelmed. It helps me to see it all on paper, because it usually sounds a bit ridiculous once it’s in black and white. I also enjoy talking about it with someone, because hearing myself say it out loud sounds equally ridiculous and having a second party there to remind me that I am just over-thinking is a positive affirmation that I should just relax.
If I had to guess, I would say that at least 85% of us are guilty of radically over-thinking about something every day. There’s no shame in it! But it gets in the way of us enjoying the moment we are currently in. Hopefully these tips will help you to relax and stay on track so that you can absorb more of the things that truly matter.