DO YOU OVERTHINK THINGS?
Greetings. I hope this week finds everyone well. The question for this week's topic is do you overthink things? Overthinking is the process of thinking about something too hard and for too long. This was a practice I feel prey to for years. According to a study by ns.umich.edu; "Among the findings: Overthinking is a national epidemic among young and middle-aged adults but is relatively rare among older adults: 73 percent of 25-35 year-olds overthink compared to 52 percent of 45-55 year-olds and just 20 percent of 65-75 year-olds. So you see, some things do get better with age.
In another study by inc.com, the question was addressed is overthinking a mental health problem. It showed that "The link between overthinking and mental health problems is a chicken-or-egg type question. Overthinking is linked to psychological problems, like depression and anxiety. It's likely that overthinking causes mental health to decline and as your mental health declines, the more likely you are to overthink."
No, do not be alarmed. You are not losing your mind. We can see in the first study that this overthinking is a very common occurrence. However, to overcome anything, we must understand why we do it. Once we understand and accept that reasoning, we can change that behavior. Again, it's a learned behavior, not an innate behavior. For those who follow my blog, I refer to those behaviors many times. As a reminder, learned behavior is something we learn to do, and innate behavior is something that is hard-wired into us from birth. Regardless of the type of behavior, both can be relearned, however, it is easier to change learned behavior. So let's take a long at why we do this?
WHY DO WE OVERTHINK THINGS?
Things such as stress, anxiety, and emotional fear are handled differently for each of us, therefore, we react differently to them. We have things that trigger us. Those things we will tend to overthink more than others and some will overthink everything. First, allow me to say that there is nothing wrong with it, and actually, it is a good practice to think things through thoroughly, as long as you can come to a final decision. It only becomes an issue in your life when you cannot come to a resolution. People who tend to overthink things are people that may suffer from some of these issues, and no one knows you better than you know yourself.
Inability to manage things
These are only a few reasons, there are many more, however, I think you can figure out the rest. With that said, fear is usually at the top of the list for most people. They fear the outcome, therefore, they constantly think about it and usually never make a final choice they are comfortable with. Therefore, stress and anxiety now enter the equation at a much higher level. At least until they see how the outcome is going, or how it resolved. We tend to overthink things and focus on all the negative possible outcomes which further enhances the feeling of fear. As you can see, it is a merry-go-round that at best, is difficult to get off. Like a self momentum engine, it just keeps feeding itself.
There are not many positive results to this type of thinking because it may lead to much worse problems such as depression, and can lead to further mental disorders. Note the keyword in that last sentence is MAY. I used to get very frustrated when I was younger because I used to overthink everything until I was forced to make a decision. Yes, this was very frustrating until I took a good look at myself and figured out why I did this.
STEPS TO FIX IT:
Like anything else that you feel is broken, there are steps you have to take to repair it. No matter what needs repair, you first must figure out what is broken. In this case, what about your personality causes you to do this. This is not always as easy as it appears and I must say, if your particular issue is that life-altering, you may need to seek professional help to overcome it. For me, that wasn't necessary.
One of the hardest things for people to do is to take an unbiased look at themselves and admit to themselves where they have a problem, then figure out why. For me, I found that I would become fixated on whatever it was I was thinking about. So much so, that it was the only thing on my mind. I figured this out by starting to pay attention to myself. Meaning, I would mentally monitor what I was doing while thinking about whatever it was. When I realized I was becoming fixated on it, I would stop thinking about it. I did this through distraction. Meaning, I would do something else. This would break that thinking cycle for the moment. It did not solve my issue, I just started to train myself to know when to get off the merry-go-round.
The next step for me was to figure out a way to look at something I had to think about in such as manner so I could avoid getting back on the merry-go-round. Allow me to add that this process worked for me. It also may work for you, or you will need to find what does work for you. We all heard the theory of write down the pros and cons. If the list on the pro side was longer, do it, if the list on the con side was longer don't do it. Well, I did;t do it exactly that way, but possibly a form of it.
Remember earlier I mentioned you have to take an unbiased look at yourself? That is what I did. When I approached it that way, I realized that I was a much more emotionally driven individual than I thought. Meaning, I made most of my decisions based on my emotions at the time. Many times my choices were successful, but also, many times they were disastrous. Anyone will tell you making a decision when your angry never works. When we do that, we say or do things that we usually regret later. Something I am sure has happened to each of you.
I further realized that at the same time, I was a person of logic. Meaning, what makes the best sense, or what is the logical choice. No, I am not Mr. Spock from Star Trek, and I am not a Vulcan, as are neither of you. However, after looking at myself honestly, I realized that I was mostly led by emotions and not logic, meaning, what made sense. I determined I needed to find that balance. But how?
After doing research, along with my education, I tried to figure out what caused me to be that way. Most times, we can reflect on our lives and will find that we learned that behavior through others. Your mom or dad, siblings, or other people close to you in your life. Keep in mind that learned behavior is something we were either taught or something we have seen over and over. Soon, we start to become what we have learned. Hence, a learned behavior. Once I realized this, it was time to figure out a way to change that behavior.
I learned that anger never solves a problem and in most cases, makes it worse. Therefore, many years ago, I REFUSED to argue. I knew if I did, my anger would cause me to do or say something I would regret. You also learn in time, that it is not easy to take back what you say. You already put it out there and implanted that thought in someone's mind. Now, do not mistake that concept as me being a wimp. If I needed to get angry under the right circumstances, I was an expert at it. The difference now was, I choose what were the right circumstances. Another step in taking control of my life.
I also figured out that was life was mostly in a state of multi-taking. Being married, having children, going to school, and working. I now understood why when I got in bed at night, my mind NEVER stopped working. The fix for that was putting everything into proper perspective. Meaning, focus on the task at hand while multi-taking. In time, my ability to multi-task was excellent, and my time management skills increased tremendously. I also found it much easier to enjoy my downtime and started to sleep much better.
Now I needed to figure out how not to overthink things. As I stated, what worked for me may or may not work for you. I realized that no matter how much I thought about something, I had no control over what others may or may not do. Therefore, that saying; "Don't waste time worrying about things you cannot control," is totally true. You are wasting your time and keeping yourself on the merry-go-round. For me, the solution was, to approach things logically. Look at the logical solution first. However, we must keep in mind that the logical solution may not be the solution we want. However, not to worry, because that wasn't t last step in my process. After I came up with the logical solution, and would then, and only then, add the emotional component into the equation. How I felt about it, how my choice would affect me or those close to me.
Once I nailed down both those issues, I found it easy to make a choice and stop thinking about it, therefore, I corrected my overthinking process. After some time, this now became my NEW learned behavior and eventually became second nature, meaning, I did not have to consciously think about the process. That was about thirty years ago, and since then, I have never found the need to overthink anything again.
In all fairness, I must add that not every decision you make will make everyone happy. If you haven't figured it out by now, you should realize that you can keep some of the people happy some of the time, but not all of the people happy all of the time. If the latter is your goal, then you are setting yourself up for failure. It's that simple. Most of your life you will spend thinking and needing to make choices. Some will be easier than others. Some will be harder. However, they all need to be made. The last lesson I learned was probably the most important. SHARE. Meaning, if you have a life partner, share your thoughts with them. Get their opinion. If not, took to someone you trust that will not just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. You may think you are alone, but in most cases, most people find that once they realize they are not an island and do not have to take on everything alone, they are much better, off.
Stay safe and be well. Thank you.
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