I’ve always been an overthinker. It’s something I’ve come to accept as a natural part of being a sensitive soul. However, it takes time. I wasn’t always able to articulate what my mind was going through when I was overthinking, but when I learnt of the term analysis paralysis, it all made sense. When I first looked up the phrase, I instantly recognised everything that was being described. I was finally able to put a name to what I was feeling. The definition is that it is “the state of over-analysing (or overthinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralysing the outcome.” This was me – in a situation where something consumed all my thoughts and I couldn’t take any action towards it.
I’ve found overthinking can be harmful as it can create problems that weren’t there to begin with. Now more than ever, my generation is faced with tough decisions about our futures while simultaneously being bombarded with the many options available to us. We have so many expectations put on us from all different directions – family, friends, and even ourselves – making life overwhelming and causing us to lose focus.
Although we are growing up in a more connected world than our parents thanks to the rise of technology and social media, we have increasingly disengaged and isolated ourselves from one another. These phenomena have us obsessing over every “like”, “comment” and “share” a post gets, leading us to stress over trivial matters that aren’t actually worth it in the grand scheme of things. With my own experience of analysis paralysis, I initially ruled it to be a part of my dramatic nature. However, with further exploration and discussion with those close to me, I’ve realised that this feeling is legitimate and that it’s all about finding ways to avoid and overcome it when you find yourself in that situation.
Overthinking can make you think something is a greater issue than it is, when in fact what you’re actually stressing over is not the problem. In reality, it’s the sheer amount of over-analysing we’re doing over the problem that is the issue. Over time, I’ve learnt to limit the time I spend overthinking, and then I let go whatever is worrying me and let it be free. Easier said than done, I know. But you’ll find this state you’re in interfering with what your heart says you should do, causing you to feel stuck and resulting in no action. Avoid sharing the problem with others too. I’ve found it only adds to the stress as you discuss it further and factor in others opinions and thoughts when really your decision or resolution for the problem is all down to you.
Now for some more practical tips. As a writer, writing is therapeutic for me so I tend to write it all out. Writing out how you’re feeling on a blank page can help you visualise and dissect what you’re really thinking much more easily. You don’t have to be a fantastic writer, just grab a pen and paper and write, or even draw it all out. You’ll find that releasing your emotions onto paper will free your mind of your thoughts and bring you some relief. If you’re not up for this, how about a change of environment? You don’t have to pack your bags up for some fancy trip, but just get out of your usual surroundings. Maybe, like myself, you absolutely love to stay at home in your room and could do that all day without having to talk to anyone else. Well how about leaving your house and getting some fresh air? Allow yourself to enjoy yourself and relax in a different setting.
Refocusing your mind on a hobby or project can also help relieve some of that pressure. With your mind preoccupied and concentrating on something else, you’ll end up distracted, with your attention being elsewhere. Disconnecting from the outside world can also be beneficial. I don’t mean you should suddenly ghost everyone but try going offline. Every now and again if I need to declutter my mind, I’ll delete social media apps off my phone for a few days. There’s so much negativity online that sometimes I just need a break. Social media also serves as a highlight reel of everyone’s lives. This can portray a falsehood that people are living their best life. Sometimes it’s just good to get away from it all for a little while.
Ultimately, you have to accept uncertainty as a part of life. It’s incredibly frustrating and we all want to see quick results. However overthinking and stressing to the point that you don’t do anything about it isn’t going to help you. Make sure to keep yourself occupied and keep your mind off things that don’t help you. Be optimistic. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll take it from the famous poet Rumi, who once said, “Put your thoughts to sleep. Do not let them cast a shadow over the moon of your heart. Let go of thinking.”