“We are dying from over-thinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”
― Anthony Hopkins
My partner is late home. He’s been clocking up hours on the freeway. My mind is racing. I’m imagining how I will react when the cops come to the door, I’m planning what next, imaging how the kids will survive without their father, and how I will survive without him. And then I hear the backdoor open. He’s home. I’m staring at a blank screen, and managed to waste ten minutes in a nightmarish fantasy world. Am I insane?
Or I’ve been out to dinner with friends and I’m having a good time. And then someone close says to me, ‘you’re talking rather loud, everyone is looking’. I turn around. No-one is looking. But I hang onto this comment over the next few days like my life depends on it. I relive the every word I said. Did I offend people? Was I talking too loud? Will I ever been invited out again? Questions and random thoughts about the dinner party loom in my head for days. I even imagine alternate conversations. Am I normal or neurotic?
Procrastination is a dirty word. We all do it. Whether it’s ignoring the washing pile on the corner of the couch or staring at the blank screen or notebook. Every idea is edited, thought out and biffed into the junk pile in the mind, before it has a chance to be written down.
This is me, procrastinating, and more often than not over-thinking or as the doctor would prescribe: analysis paralysis. Procrastination is the fear of the unknown and my over-thinking only makes it worse.
Now there is nothing wrong with ‘thinking’ per say, thinking is obviously a worthwhile activity to be doing. It’s just when the thoughts are negative and harmful to your well-being and getting in the way of living.
It’s not just in the creative world where I over-think. But I over-think about relationships and past situations I can’t change or events that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen.
Over-thinking isn’t healthy or productive, neither is trying too hard to be liked by everyone.
Stress is the main reason that can cause people to over-think. Over-thinking can also be caused by a stressful event, a desire to be in control and uncertainty. Over-thinking is known to cause anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Over-thinking is not being the ‘now’. Over the last year I’ve been practicing yoga for three or four days a week in a class. The instructors remind us to breathe and to stay in the moment. I’m so focused on the intricate moves I find myself not thinking or planning my day’s itinerary, life is lost to the moment of movement and breath. I’m finding this sense of being in the ‘now’ and learning to breathe deeply is starting to pay off in my everyday life and routine. I still plan out my day, but not at the expense of others or whatever I’m doing at the moment, such as focussing on my kids or cooking dinner. I’m becoming a better listener instead of thinking my own thoughts and nodding and ummming at appropriate times. I’m even enjoying chores around the house. Cooking the nightly dinner is now a form of relaxation rather than torment as I slice the veggies.
My thoughts and actions are slowing changing.
Over-thinking means instead of doing something you love and enjoy, your mind is on overdrive creating a drama of mostly negative thoughts. Instead of taking on the wisdom of an old Nike slogan, Just do it.
Sometimes I just need to get these negative self-hate thoughts out of my head. If a thought is pervading my every waking moment one technique of making it go away is to write it down. I’ve never been successful at Morning Pages, but I use this idea of writing several pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. Writing in the morning can serve to prioritise, clarify and ground the day’s activities. I tend to write more at night, and for me this still works. By doing this, the more creative thoughts have a chance to come to the foreground. If you have never heard of Morning Pages, try one Julia Cameron’s books, from ‘The Artists Way’ to ‘The Right to Write’.
To stop over-thinking you need to be ‘present’ and you need to stop being perfect.
Get a dog, or borrow a friend’s. Dogs are the best reason to pound the pavements, parks and beaches. Most dogs need daily walks, whatever the weather, and so do you! When I’m stuck, strung out, and generally losing the plot, I grab the dog leash and out we go. As I walk I take notice of my environment, quirky letter boxes, and sunsets over the beach. I’ve taken to taking my phone, so I can take photos. Taking photos and focussing on the image I’m trying to create lets me ‘be’ in the moment. If all else fails I put on headphones and focus on music or downloads. I may not be focusing on the walk, but at least I am getting out of my head!
Have you suffered from over-analysing a situation from the past or a possible future scenario? If you have, how have you dealt with it?