Overthinkers have it more challenging than others. They overthink and overanalyze everything, and they know how exhausting and draining it is on their souls. Yet, if they look back on what worried them so much, most of it never materialized, which tells us much about the pattern of overthinking and worrying. I read somewhere that 90% of what we worry about never happens. As they say, worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but does not get you anywhere. On the bright side, worrying means that you are a genuine and considerate person who cares for the well-being of your loved ones, a good-hearted person who is always trying to do your best.
The problem with overthinking and worrying is that it deprives you of being present in the now and living in the moment. You are constantly thinking about all the actions and reactions of you and/or others; you are worried about tomorrow and what might or might not happen. You analyze every step and, in many cases, give it more weight than it deserves.
Imagine a two-year-old kid playing with a toy joyfully. They will cry if you take that toy away, and if you give it back, they will instantly smile and play with it again. The child will not think about why the toy was taken away, why it was given back, or even when it is their next meal, or what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow. All they care about at that moment is playing with that toy.
Being in the now is an instinct in all species, but as we get older, we lose that magical ability to focus on the NOW, start thinking about yesterday and tomorrow, and forget how to enjoy the moment. Thinking of the past and the future is a unique ability in humans, vs. all other species, but if we allow it to consume us, it becomes our curse.
When you overthink, your brain works non-stop, which makes you sometimes feel busy, yet it is the fact that you are not busy that makes you, in most cases, subconsciously turn to overthink to feel busy. Remember, when we are busy, we feel good, and of added value to ourselves and others, so we focus on progressive forward thinking to do work and solve problems. Interestingly enough, the same feeling happens when we work out. Working out can increase your endorphin levels, the hormone in charge of making you feel good and happy, and increases your self-esteem—enough to get you off overthinking and into progressing forward thinking. The silver lining here is that when overthinking and worrying are used smartly, they help you advance.
There are many tools to help overthinkers control their behavior. Overthinking on paper has proven to be one of the most effective, and it is my personal favorite.
Overthinking creates many emotions, depending on the thoughts, which can lead to anxiety. Journaling helps express random thoughts in your head into meaningful statements. Once you put a thought on paper in front of you, it is no longer random. It takes shape and meaning, giving you awareness that allows you to immediately accept the ones that make sense and dismiss the ones that don’t so they no longer haunt you. Try to do the following every night for no more than five minutes.
- Slice it Thin – Emotions are a product of our thoughts, so overthinking creates more random emotions. Breaking it down into small pieces makes us see the trigger and take care of it in its infant stages.
- Be mindful of the thoughts you are having
- Write them down in bullet points
- Reply to them as if you are a detective cross-checking facts
- In most cases, you will dismiss the case for the lack of solid evidence. You should tell yourself, “I’m recognizing it’s just a thought; it’s a story I’m telling myself, and it’s not true.”
- Appreciate life – write down your top three blessings that day. Like a nice cup of coffee done right, quality time with your loved ones, or listening to a song you love that you have not heard in a long time. The idea is to remind yourself that every day has good in it, no matter what. Our days have countless small blessings, so capturing three should not be an issue.
- Self-Appreciation – As above, write down the top three things you have done that day that you are most proud of or felt good doing. Again, it doesn’t have to be life-changing unless you did save someone’s life; then, by all means, write it down. Remember, the little moments also matter, like helping a friend in need, a colleague at the office, or even finishing a report on time. I told a friend how this year had passed so fast, and I still had not achieved some of my goals. She told me about a technique she learned and found very useful; to compliment yourself every night. This routine helps you appreciate yourself and be proud of the little steps.
Disclaimer. The above exercises should not fool you into ignoring reality. You might be having a tough day at work or having trouble at home, but you should still see that the bad is not absolute, and there is goodness in every day and every person. You should still deal with your issues of the day to solve them.
Life is short, filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and if you are not entirely in the moment, enjoying the journey, your life will just pass you by. In the movie, “The Bucket List,” Edward & Carter, played by Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman, respectively, learn that they have less than a year to live. It was an awakening moment for them, so they created a bucket list of trips they wished to take, loved ones to see, and things they had always wanted to do and make that last year of their lives count.
With another year passing by, make sure you spend more quality time with your loved ones, be expressive with your feelings more often, make that trip you always wanted, start that side hustle you keep dreaming of, or get closer to your financial or career objectives. Keep checking items off your bucket list and adding new ones for as long as you are alive before it is too late.
Happy new year, and may 2023 be the year when you say, “I did it.”
- The title is taken from the famous quote by Descartes, “I think Therefore I am.”
- “The Power of Now,” by Eckhard Tolle