Anxiety, Blog, Control, Memoir, Overthinking, Writing

The Trouble with Overthinking

leaving NYC via train

o·ver·think

ōvərˈTHiNGk/
verb
gerund or present participle: overthinking

  1. think about (something) too much or for too long.
    “must you overthink every relationship?”  

So I woke up with one-half of my face particularly numb today, it’s numb every day, but today it is amplified. It’s really weird and it’s a feeling that I never ever could have understood before it happened to me. I want to say that I hate it, but yet I’m torn using that word with all of the negativity attached to it.

I’m so conflicted; because it almost feels subhuman to not have complete sensation all over your own body. Then I think what could be more human to feel something, even if it’s to feel numb or to feel strange or to feel uncomfortable?

To feel is to be alive.

What about when we feel something that we perceive as negative though? At this point we’ve only got a couple choices; we can accept what we cannot change and proceed forward. Move on. Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it?

Or…we can dwell on it. We can obsess about it. We can take an observation and turn it into a concern, and then worry about it until it becomes a full blown neurosis. Congratulations…we’re overthinking, as millions of people do, at least at times.

But I get it. Ohhhh, do I get it. Of course, I’ve no idea what all brings this on in every person on the planet that experiences it, but I do know a few of the ways it manifests for me.

And one way, a pretty big trigger in fact, is related to my health and wellbeing. You see as I was going about my life, doing the family thing and turning forty a couple years ago, suddenly I had a life-threatening health emergency and illness, that thankfully I lived through.

So no doubt after that scare I have some post-traumatic stress or PTSD that can help me get a real jump on overthinking; every little ache and pain, every irritation and anomaly that happens with my body can start a chain reaction.

And naturally, when it comes to health, this is the absolute last thing needed.

cut out the piece of my brain


We are dying from overthinking. 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

Don't Overthink

Too much energy is too often expended without moving a single muscle…that can be seen…I’m talking about the brain. Specifically I’m talking about this business of overthinking.

We all have our issues, right? Control issues. Financial stresses. Many of us are overextended, sleep-deprived and pretty much running on empty.

What can we possibly do to shut off our brains?

There’s good news, and there’s bad news…well, they’re actually both the same: our brains are hardwired this way.

According to Psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the leading expert in this field, “the organization of our brains sets us up for over-thinking” because our thoughts and memories are intrinsically woven together, not compartmentalized. So when stressors are triggered or you get into a bad mood, it can unlock a ‘cascade’ of racing negative thoughts that have nothing to do with the original trigger for the bad mood. Nolen-Hoeksema gives the example of “when poor job performance causes you to think about your aunt who died last year.”

Furthermore, when something bad happens or someone is feeling negative, they are more likely to think negative things and also see connections (that may not actually exist) between all the bad events that have happened in their lives. The more frequently this happens, the more likely the individual is to engage in this over-thinking pattern in the future.

While the brain might be wired to make these associations, once you become aware you can begin to solve the problem. ―Dr. Kelly Neff/themindunleashed.org


A short list from the previous article found on themindunleashed.org/written by Dr. Kelly Neff includes the following ways to put an end to overthinking:

  • Breathe More
  • Talk Less
  • Get Physical and Get Busy
  • Practice Mindfulness
  • Surrender to the Universe
  • Remember, Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

All of these are excellent ways to combat against staying trapped in your thoughts. Let’s face it; it’s not a fun place to be for any length of time.

I used to think it was something that mostly only got me at night, like if I woke up suddenly and was unable to get back to sleep. I would nearly panic as I lay there waiting for those thoughts to invade my mind.

It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy (a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior). It’s taken me: many years, several sleep-interrupted/sleepless nights, and for a while, the steady use of guided meditations, to cut this problem waaay back.

Although not completely. Just last month our younger son, who’s about to graduate high school, went on his first camping trip with two friends, and no parents. I knew there might be minimal cell service in the state park that they’d reserved a cabin in, and I had to accept that.

They were going to be gone for about forty-eight hours. They were planning on at least two hikes. They were going to cook their food and they supposedly had everything they needed with them. These factors alone are difficult enough for me, but take away cell service? Take away my direct connection to my child?

Well, let’s just say that I did not sleep well that first night, and I could do little to quell the overthinking and analyzing, but I did all I could. Then by the second evening I was expecting another night of the same, but miraculously (well, to me) I received one short text, simply saying:

This is J*****’s phone, everything is going great and we’re gonna be heading home tomorrow morning.

All my fears hadn’t come true? He was fine? Yeah, I hadn’t really been that worried. After that non-existent relief washed over me, I somehow managed to not over-text back and simply replied,

Oh good!

And it was good. It made all the difference.

I actually slept that second night. Yes, I had to remind myself that he was fine a couple times, and put the kibosh on the thoughts that tried to creep into my mind:

  • He was fine several hours ago, but by now he could have gotten into all kinds of trouble…
  • What if he ran out of food, but doesn’t want to worry you?

And the big one,

  • What if that wasn’t even him texting, what if he’s being held captive…

…well I can’t even finish that thought without feeling ridiculous, or having a good laugh. Clearly I’ve watched way too many television shows and movies. Oh, and I’m an overthink-er…there’s that.

Another funny thing about that entire situation is that our older son is always out there in that same park, or another area, camping and hiking nearly every weekend. But…this was our younger son’s first time, and I’m his mom. Cut me some slack.

We ALL made it through. I’m trusting that next time it’s going to be easier, because there’s already talk of the next time.

I just keep reminding myself, “Don’t overthink this. Do not overthink this.”


Remember:

IMG_6872

It’s quite the same as when we find ourselves stuck on something we wish we could change from the past (ie regrets):

Overthinking the Past

Raina K Morton   April 21 2015

Mary Oliver I Worried

And I’d like to take this opportunity to make a wish to the very special ladies in my life who have April birthdays. So many of my favorite friends are April babies! Even today is one of those special days…Happy Birthday to you, JM!
XOX to you All

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