The Curse of the Over thinker
You have a big job interview coming up. This is a job you would be perfect for and want to get an offer. Today is the day! Unfortunately, you didn’t sleep last night. You kept playing different scenarios of the interview through your head. You couldn’t help but think ‘what if I said hi this way,’ or ‘maybe I should wear my brown shoes instead.’ You continue to race through every aspect of the interview as you get ready. At this point you’re utterly convinced that you aren’t getting the job, even though the interview doesn’t start for two hours. However, you still go and see what happens. After the interview, which went just fine, you replay it over and over in your head. You think about what you could have said differently, did you laugh too much? Did you smile at the right times? Did I really see that weird look on her face? You’re even more convinced you didn’t get the job and your thoughts get darker. ‘Why did I even go? I don’t have the skills for that job,’ or ‘I just made a fool of myself, she is probably telling all her coworkers what a joke I was.’ Next thing you know you are offered the job.
More often than not situations turn out just fine. Sometimes are better than others but you have managed so far. Yet the cycle continues and it is miserable.
Does this sound familiar?
The text from your boyfriend/girlfriend, the e-mail your college sent, the comment your boss made, the fight you had with your mom, your weekend plans, or maybe you’ve been sick for more than one day. Every situation seems to take on a world of its own. The ruminating and worry take over.
Overthinking is your mind obsessing in an attempt to control the situation. It is a habit that prevents you from taking action and steals your energy. It forces you to stay in one place without making any progress in your life.
This is a topic that I know all too well. I have been an overthinker as long as I can remember. It is exhausting and painful. I’ve spent years trying to quiet the thoughts. What I have found is that I can handle more, I am more efficient, and peaceful. I am willing to go outside my comfort zone with less worry and fear.
Here are some ways to stop overthinking and start taking back control of your mind.
Firmly tell yourself to stop thinking about it
I know how that sounds. How is that supposed to help, right? Trust me it does. When you start to over think a situation tell yourself to stop. Identify that it is happening and tell yourself not to do it. This step allows you to notice when it is happening so that you can begin to change your thoughts.
When racing thoughts begin, identify that it is happening and think about something else. I have a specific thing that I think about instead. Try finding your happy place and imagine yourself there or go do something that will keep your mind distracted.
Plan a specific time to think about it and put a time limit on it
Make a plan. Some situations do need to be thought about so make a plan. Set up a time to think about the situation and put a limit on how long you can think about it. Then move on. Allow yourself to think about and do other things.
Write it down
Get the thoughts out of your head. Put them on paper. Then put the paper aside and physically move on from it. You don’t even have to go back to it if you don’t want to.
Let go of perfection
Strive for “good enough” instead of perfect. Perfection is an idea that doesn’t exist. Which means you are striving for something that will never happen. Why tourcher yourself? Find what is good enough and make that your mark. You are doing all you can with what you have, I can guarantee it, and that is enough.
Mistakes and disagreements are part of the growth process. Without mistakes you can’t learn. They do not have to be a bad thing. Embrace them and learn everything you can from them. Change how you look at mistakes and disagreements and they will lose the power they have.
Don’t spend time in “what if land.” Don’t allow your mind to go there. Stay present and mindful of what is happening in this moment.
Changing your thoughts isn’t easy. It takes work and repetition. But it can be done. Eventually it becomes easier to take each step and you will get more comfortable doing it. You will also begin to feel more at ease and peaceful in your thoughts.