I regret many things in my life so far—getting a job in middle school, telling my mom about my crush, and even deciding to try something new at my favorites sushi place (now I know that eel sauce is just as unappealing as it sounds). But out of all my grave and perilous mistakes, my greatest one will always be overthinking.
Overthinking has consumed and digested me a thousand times over. One thought begins like any other, floating in the cosmos of my mind—then, suddenly, my brain decides to zoom into one tiny glitch within it and cling on for dear life. As much as I try to remain optimistic, I somehow manage to resort to negative conclusions that make my life, to put it eloquently, a living hell.
From then on, my past mistakes pop up like a jack-in-the-box, and I begin to consider their seemingly endless negative impacts on my future. At this point, navigating something as simple as a conversation becomes akin to dissecting a frog, and I bore into the slight instances that create a wave of anxiety and paranoia.
If my description of overthinking seems familiar to you, it may just be that we’re in the same boat—and it is about time for you to know how detrimental this condition can be for your health. According to modern psychological studies, ruminators (over-thinkers) are commonly affected with both depression and anxiety.
According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, chairperson of Yale University’s Psychology Department and author of “Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life,” “ruminators repetitively go over events, asking big questions: ‘Why did that happen?’ and ‘What does it mean?’ But they never find any answers.”
Many argue that overthinking isn’t always bad, as it allows for scrutinizing, analysis and critical thinking. Although it seems that this argument holds some truth, it can be falsified by the notion that overthinking does, in fact, the exact opposite. Overthinking may not effectively aid in decision making because in the end, we are still deciding from the same mindset and level of thinking we have always possessed.
But fear not! Below is a list of ways to prevent the mind infestation that is overthinking—for good.
1. Admit there is a problem…. and then don’t think about it.
The first step to eliminating an issue is acknowledging its existence. If overthinking is sticking your mind in a time machine that only rewinds, it is time for you to confront your problem. Denying this reality will only allow for more suffering, so look yourself in the mirror and recognize the issue. There—that wasn’t so bad, was it?
2. Forgive, and (at least try to) forget.
What if you accidently burnt the roti your saas so kindly requested? What if you didn’t end up pursuing medicine and gravely disappointed your parents? What if someone noticed you picking your nose at the spotlight?
So what? At the end of the day, it is your life. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and realize that they made you a stronger person today. Remember that we must crawl in the shadows to learn how to appreciate the light.
3. Talk less, worry less.
I cannot even begin to verbalize how many times my mouth has gotten me in trouble. From getting detention for singing the “Dhoom” theme song during basketball practice to confidently answering a teacher’s rhetorical question, my mouth is likely the cause for many of my regrets.
In turn, I have decided to talk less and carefully consider the repercussions of my words and actions. (And maybe, if your aunt asks how she looks in her new sari, the correct answer isn’t, “kind of like Johnny Lever.”)
4. Throw your hands up, and let God take care of this one.
To me, the best way to alter your destiny is to admit that you can’t control it. Instead of trying to perfectly plan and execute all details and logistics, try being more spontaneous and remember that sometimes, it’s okay to not have all the answers (except after your teacher has repeated it a billion times and decides to pick on you). In other words, it is okay to suspend to a higher power and just go with the flow.
Your car got towed? Your new Mac lipstick melted in your purse? You got demoted at work? You accidentally used your aftershave as mouthwash?
Just breathe in and out. Breathing will calm your nerves and body by connecting you to the present. It will allow you to form a ligature with the universe and step into reality with a fresh mind. Although the concept of breathing seems elementary, there is so much more depth to it—breathing helps us relax, and is especially useful when our brains instruct us to panic or curl up in fetal position.
Before reacting to a situation, it is important that we press pause on our imaginary life remote and inhale and exhale to send some oxygen to the brain. After all, it does deserve a break from the unnecessary overthinking.
When you implement the above tips and practices, your mental clarity and consciousness will surely improve. Most importantly, your tendency to overthink will slowly diminish—and that is something you won’t have to think twice about.