Ante Scriptum: Stock photo from Unsplash, not my actual hair colour or gender 🙂
Overthinking is the pandemic of the 21st century. You might think it’s stress, but stress is nothing but a result of overthinking. Thinking should be a regulated process in your mind. You should be able to control it 100% without much effort. But then, as you know, you can’t.
Most of the time, your mind takes over and controls you. It controls your thought, emotions, actions and so on. It makes you whatever it is that it wants. Like an invisible force, it possesses you, speaks to you and leads you on. And it’s all because you allow it to do one simple thing: you allow your mind to overthink everything.
What is overthinking
Overthinking means, you think too much. It’s as simple as that. The word thinking means you are in control of the stuff that’s happening in your head. You decide on what your mind is thinking about. When overthinking happens, you are letting the mind take the simple act of thinking to an extreme you’re surely not comfortable with.
Think about the last time you had a little ache anywhere in your body. Just thinking about it made you suppose you had cancer, hepatitis or another life-threatening disease. If you weren’t to even think about it, the ache would’ve just disappeared in a few hours, as it ultimately did. But no, you allowed the mind to play you and surely, it did so marvellously because this is what the mind does.
Overthinking involves two important aspects: memories and imagination. With memories, we recollect things from the past. Imagination takes those memories and transforms them into thoughts we think are a reality. “Oh, Aunt Mary had an ache just like me one day. Now she’s gone. This might be my doom day, for sure!” That’s memory and imagination together playing an act on you. It happens almost every single moment of your waking hours.
When memories and imagination work against you, you’ll always overthink every single thing that you’re facing. Regardless if it’s an ache, a bad breakup, money problem, or simply you not being happy with something. With a feeling, an emotion, a state of mind. You’ll immediately think about a past experience, a memory, and then imagine a future you that’s going to be dealing with the same thing. You overthink, therefore you stress out and sure, can actually become the person you’re imagining yourself to become.
How to stop overthinking
Prevention is better than any cure, isn’t it? The single, most valuable and surely working way of stopping overthinking is by simply realising what it is. You overthink everything because memory and your imagination are taking over a present fact that you’re dealing with. Even though your stomach is aching, that is the only real thing that’s happening to you right now. Everything else is made up by the mind.
The stuff that aunt Mary unfortunately had? That’s the past, which means, it’s not real. The stuff you think you might be up against in a few days, weeks or months? That’s also not real, because it’s happening just in your imagination. You don’t know the future. If you do, you’d be rich and famous right now, not having time to think about a stomach ache.
If you are able to distinguish between what’s just a thought and what’s real, between facts and fantasy, then you’ll be able to easily not even start the overthinking process. Once it’s going on, it surely is harder to stop than before it starts.
The practice of awareness
Awareness is simply being aware of your surroundings and your thoughts, and their validity. If you practice awareness and constantly remind yourself that thoughts, memory and imagination are not real, but just a product of your mind, you’ll never have to deal with overthinking, stress or heartbreak. Peace will come over you and you’ll have a normal, conscious thinking pattern. Which will help you in your everyday life and make your experience of life pleasant, enjoyable, even blissful!
So don’t start overthinking. Just realise that what you’re about to do, overthinking, is nothing but memories plus imagination times one million, and once it starts, it’s very hard to stop the process. Instead, be aware of the facts. What are the real facts right now? This, this and that! All right, work with those and nothing else.
Make it so that your mind listens to you, don’t give it the power to take over. It’s your mind and so you’re the one who should constantly take over whenever you feel like you’re about to pass control to your memories and imagination. Calmly remind yourself what is real and what’s not. It will save you from a lot of troubles…