When overthinking overwhelms your brain

Posted Jun 27, 2017

For as long as I can remember I have been an over-thinker. I obsess and ruminate over the most minuscule things. After I am done overthinking something I am physically and emotionally exhausted. Overthinking takes a toll on my brain. I'm not sure when I began overthinking. I was in a long-term relationship with someone who did not overthink. He actually used to tell me "Sarah, you think too much." It would drive me crazy. I would say back to him "how do you not think so much?" He appeared to not overthink things. I wish I could act like he did. I longed to let things go,  roll with the punches, go with the flow. Unfortunately that is not how my brain works. I have accepted that I am an over-thinker for better or for worse or till death do me and my brain part. 

I've been overthinking today about when I started overthinking. When I was 12 years old I enjoyed laying in my bed and thinking. Thinking was a hobby that I very much liked to do. As I lay there I would think about the events of the day. I would recall conversations I had, fun times that I shared with my friends, and incidents that were not so much fun. Thinking was something I enjoyed, because I am fundamentally an introverted person. 

When I got into high school that is when the overthinking begin. I was self-conscious about my body and how people perceived me as a person. I wanted everybody to like me. And when someone didn't appear to like me I was very sad. Actually, I still struggle with that today. When someone doesn't appear to like me I over analyze it. Back to high school, when the genesis of overthinking happened. If I had a conflict with a friend when I got home I would think how could I solve it. When I got into a fight with my boyfriend I couldn't stop thinking about it. Back in those days there were no cell phones therefore you couldn't text message people. Instead of texting people or going on social media, because I didn't have the Internet, I would keep to myself and think and think and think. It is a wonder that I didn't get headaches from all the thinking that I did when I was a teenager.

Once I was medicated for anxiety and depression some of the thinking stopped. It turned out there was a lot of garbage in my brain that needed to be taken out. Being on antidepressants quieted my mind and I was able to focus on the things that mattered. However, medication did not entirely stop the overthinking. I still over analyze interactions I had with other people - strangers and loved ones. To this day I struggle with overthinking. It's so hard to let something go and see what happens.
In reality, we have limited control over our lives. We can control our actions, but we cannot control the actions of other people. Some of what I overthink about is what is going on in the other person's mind. I try to intuitively guess what this person might be thinking and feeling. In reality I have no clue what the person feels. 

The truth is unless you ask the other person how they feel you won't know. You can overthink things all day and you still will not come up with an answer as to how your friend feels about something. I try not to overthink as much these days but it is part of my personality that I've accepted.

We can change as people, but it takes a lot of work. What I found is helpful for overthinking is the practice of mindfulness. When I start to feel like I am obsessing over a problem, I stop myself and distract my brain from what its doing. There are times when you cannot solve your problem by thinking about it. In fact, it benefits you to stop thinking about it because then you'll come to the solution later.

I still don't understand the people that don't overthink things. They seem like magical superheroes to me. I'd like to drink some of the Kool-Aid they're drinking. But then I would not be me. And who I am is someone who is cerebral and analytical and those are qualities that I value in myself. Like anything those qualities can be overused, so it's a matter of balancing my analytical nature with the ability to be mindful.

I started a hashtag on Twitter - #OverThinkersAnonymous. Here we can share some of the common problems we have with overthinking. It is a place to commiserate about being extremely analytical.

I'd like to hear from you. Are you an overthinker? Are you someone that just goes with the flow? Whoever you are, value your qualities. These idiosyncrasies make you who you are overthinker or not.

Unsplash 2017
Source: Unsplash 2017