Friday, 22 September 2023 10:48

Our Overthinking Minds

“Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~Buddha

The day my mother died was the day I became paranoid that something bad was always about to happen. My brain went into overthinking mode. 

Thirty years later, my husband stood in the kitchen of our home and said, “I can’t make you happy. You deserve someone who makes you happy.” 

Between these two life-altering events was a scared little girl whose thoughts ran rampant. Bad things happened because I was a bad child. That’s why my mom died. I was a bad wife and that’s why my husband left. If I don’t be good and perfect, then no one will like or accept me and will abandon me just like my mom and husband. 

When you start thinking these thoughts at a young age, they tend to stay with you for the long haul. For me, it translated into a worrier and overthinker, one where I would see the world and every scenario in it as something bad right around the corner. It was a defense mechanism, one I created so I would never be caught off guard again and it followed me throughout life. 

I recently struggled with my thoughts at work. I was surprised by an unexpected transition at my job. I was not told that I was being replaced until the week before and this upset me, especially because I was being moved to a smaller, more secluded office and losing a project I was responsible for. I had been with the company for more than a year and I felt like I was being demoted. Because of this, my mind took me down a rabbit hole of overthinking and I grew paranoid that I would lose my job. The questions came like rain: What would I do? How would I afford to live where I live? Would I be able to find another job that pays the same or more? There was no indication that I was about to be fired.

I also had a health scare with my 11-year-old cat. She stopped eating, was barely drinking, and acting lethargic. I took her to the vet, had blood tests, an ultrasound, and prepared myself for the worst, even though it was the last thing I wanted. I had no proof that this was fatal for her, but my mind immediately went there. After the tests, it was determined that she had triaditis, a manageable condition in cats that isn’t life threatening if the right medication and diet is administered. I had allowed my mind to overthink and over worry.

In both these scenarios, the worst case didn’t happen and I felt somewhat foolish to have thought about them in the way I had. Even after years of self-reflection and personal development, I still tend to think too far ahead of the facts. I remind myself to look at the negative thoughts as what they are and ask myself why the thought occurred in the first place. Sitting with the thoughts, writing them out in my journal, talking about them with someone else or just saying them out loud helps to put things in a more logical perspective. 

The mind’s thoughts are allowed to escape into the world and in turn, my mind is no longer weighed down by them. I realize that there is nothing substantial to support my rogue thoughts, but it is not something I can fix overnight either. The first step is recognition that they are just thoughts, not facts.  

I write about journal writing and how powerful it can be in one of another post called, “The Power of Writing” but I’ll reiterate here that journaling is a way to release negative emotions, thoughts, and energy from your mind and body. Research has shown there is a connection between the mind and body and when one tends to go awry, the other one isn’t far behind. Despite sounding like a broken record, I will say that self-care practices do help with separating overthinking and the stress it takes. You don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes, but you can take a few deep breaths for 30 seconds. You don’t have to travel to a far-off yoga retreat to become more centered and aware, but a 10 minute walk in nature might just do the trick.

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