You lie your head down on your pillow, exhausted from the day you’ve had. You’ve been picturing this moment since you got out of bed this morning: the moment you can finally relax—and sleep. Just as your eyes close and begin to feel yourself drift off into sleep, your mind does a 180.
You’re thinking of anything and everything. Did I take my clothes out of the dryer? What do I need to buy at the grocery store tomorrow? Am I really happy? What’s the meaning of life?
It’s a wormhole that many of us can understand, because we’ve been there.
Thinking vs. overthinking
I find it hard to control where my mind goes more often than not. I’m always thinking about the next step, how the previous step could’ve went better, what I’m doing in the current step and anywhere in between all those crazy steps.
Sure, this might seem like a good thing—which it is—but it’s not for the best all the time. (Like when I’m trying to sleep.) Realistically, not only am I thinking all the time, but, in most cases, I’m overthinking.
There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts.
If you aren’t the typical overthinker, this might be confusing for you, so let me break it down.
Thinking (in this instance) is when you’re recalling things that happened or are going to happen. You’re simply playing those scenes in your head and watching them like an innocent bystander.
Overthinking, on the other hand, is when you’re not only playing those scenes in your head, but you’re also analyzing them, usually in a negative way, picking them apart until there is nothing left.
You play them over and over again—forwards, backwards and sideways. In this process, you find problems where problems didn’t exist, and give yourself stress and anxiety in doing so. It’s almost as if you get inside your head, creating scenarios that make you feel uneasy.
If you’ve never experienced that, then consider yourself lucky. If you have, then welcome to the curse of the overthinker. Grab a seat, turn your thinking brain off and let’s figure out how we can end this.
Five steps to overcome overthinking
Being an overthinker (and knowing that I need to stop doing it), I’ve come up with a process that seems to help me when I get into those picking-every-situation-apart-until-I-feel-like-the-world-is-ending moods.
- Admit you have a problem. No, you don’t have to have an intervention, but you do have to be real with yourself. If you spend more nights than not laying in bed overthinking to no end, that means you have the curse, and it’s time to change that.
- Make note of what triggers you. Do you tend to overthink the most when you’re in social situations? What about when you’re thinking of your potential future? If you can pinpoint the cause, you can find the solution.
- Understand why it triggers you. Are you worried about what other people think of you? Are you afraid that you don’t have your life figured out? When you truly understand why you’re looking for the bad in a situation, you can ensure that next time that won’t happen.
- Stop yourself in your tracks. Once you realize what and why something causes you to overthink, you’re more aware of when you’re doing it. When this happens, it’s time to derail your mind.
- Channel your thoughts elsewhere. You’ve caught and stopped yourself from overthinking about something, so now you have to occupy your mind. Think about anything else to keep yourself from going back to that scene in your mind (Heck, just Google images of puppies).
If all else fails err on the side of optimism. Instead of overthinking about all the terrible or unwanted things that could happen. Think about what good can come of that scene playing over and over in your head. It’s refreshing to hope for the best instead of the worst.
Just go with it
When it comes down to it, overthinking is our only way to feel like we have control over a situation. In reality, there are so many times when we have absolutely no control over the world around us.
So, maybe it’s best to simply accept that. Instead of thinking through a scene over and over again, maybe it’s best to just let it go. Forget about it, follow your heart and see where the world guides you.
Just go with the flow (but do it the right way).