Updated: Apr 13, 2020
If you're anything like me, you'll be gifted with an analytical mind. Sometimes this can be extremely useful, but sometimes it can be a burden. Like, when I am faced with a decision, for instance, am I suitable for that job role? What happens if they don't like me? What if I'm rubbish at it? Or.. shall I wear that outfit? What if people think it's horrible? What if other people look better than me? What if people think I'm too 'try hard'? And what about when we meet people for the first time? What if they don't like me? What if they think I'm boring? What if I am not intelligent enough to contribute to the conversation? What if I embarrass myself or my partner?
It happens in ALL aspects of an anxiety sufferers life, in my experience. Flying. I am a terrible flyer. I hate it. It scares me to the point of not wanting to get on a plane. What if the plane crashes? What if the wings fall off? (I know!!!) What if the engine gives up? What if a bird flies into the engine? What if the pilot keels over? All of these things completely cloud the thinking process. It's irrational. But it's rational in the world of anxiety.
We also have a tendency to create problems that aren't there. To answer these questions ourselves. And the answer is usually a negative one. Overthinking is a symptom of anxiety. It's a curse in many situations. We already decide for ourselves and other people what they will think. Why do we do it?
Well, it's because we don't want to disappoint. Ourselves or others. We eventually decide on a negative outcome (which was always going to be the case because anxiety rarely lets us explore the possibility of a positive one!) so that we are ready for said disappointment. It is, without a doubt, counter-intuitive! So, what happens when things don't go the way we expect? When things turn out fine? We feel silly, don't we? We end up being disappointed in ourselves anyway for thinking that way! It's a vicious cycle! And one that is hard to break.
We are constantly risk assessing.
When is overthinking a blessing? In my case, it works wonders for me when I am... for instance.. deciding on vaccinations for my kids. I will analyse all evidence, pros and cons, before making an informed decision.
When I am at work (I work with very vulnerable patients) I may have to make on the spot rational decisions. And I do. Which is proof that we CAN rationalise. It is mainly when we are under pressure that we can make the right decision without overthinking coming in to play.
And what about in today's 'norm' at the moment? Do I risk going to the shops for essentials? What if I get COVID-19? What about my kids? How will I fight it off if I do get it? Am I well enough to fight it off? And so the overthinking, justified as it may be, starts again. In this case, I think that we need to try to stop thinking about it. "What?" I hear you say! Corona Virus is out there. There is no getting away from it at the moment. As long as we are adhering to social distancing and staying home, that is all we can do. I sound harsh, I know. But I don't want you to overthink. I don't want this pandemic to cause more people to suffer with anxiety and panic and other mental illness. I want us all to look back and be proud of ourselves for how we handled it. So we MUST stop overthinking on this subject. Please try.
Is overthinking a blessing or a curse?
It's both! In short! We need to try to train our minds not to conjure up worst case scenario at any given opportunity. It's a difficult habit to break. One way to start is to think of all those times when you were scared of what others thought of you and how you convinced yourself they wouldn't like you. And the time you went on a plane and actually didn't mind it. And when everything turned out as you DIDN'T expect, when it turned out great, you realised that all of the overthinking and all of the energy you spent doing so was, in essence, a waste of time.
A lesson I learnt the hard way.
Make today Day #1 of breaking the chain.
Good luck & lotsa love
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