Have you lately come across the expression overthinking?
What happened to the old-fashioned expression “brooding”? So, overthinking it is nowadays. I, too, am very familiar with the phenomenon with one personal problem or another. And yet I believe that overthinking is currently depriving many people of sleep. In the truest sense of the word. Whether it’s due to Covid19 – you can blame everything on this pandemic – or our constant mental workload, I don’t know. But I observe it more and more often. And when I read an article about it the other day, I knew that a new term for it was born.
How did my boss take my critical comment today? Why didn’t my boyfriend reply to my WhatsApp right away even though he was online? Was I too strict with my son yesterday? Why didn’t I get any likes for my postings?
Banalities, you might say. And yet they seem to grow to unimagined size in our minds. They spread out and dominate our thinking. We toss them back and forth, question, interpret, and complicate. And so the casual comment, the unanswered WhatsApp becomes a very unhealthy negative spiral. It makes us sad, robs us of energy and distracts us. In extreme cases, it can even make us depressed.
So what can we do about it?
The best thing to do is distraction. Giving the mind something else to play with. That can be a book, the next episode (or two) of your favorite show, a good podcast, talking on the phone with a good friend. Anything that helps us change direction mentally.
We succeed even better in distracting ourselves if we combine it with physical activity. Sport is once again the best medicine. Often it is also enough to change the place. To go outside. See something else. Listen to something else. Let the wind literally blow through your head.
The currently so popular mindfulness, can also help. Who lives consciously in the moment, registers stimuli and feelings, will learn at some point to classify negative thoughts and put them in perspective.
My favorite tip, however, is a bit of mental hygiene. In front of our own bathroom mirror, we can look at our reflection and ask ourselves, “Seriously?” Often, that’s enough to make us laugh. If not, make wild faces at it and keep asking, “Seriously?” Sometimes it takes a few “facial eruptions” until that works. But after a while we can shake our heads at ourselves and the thought spiral is interrupted. And if that doesn’t help, here’s a second tip: use a deodorant stick, hair dryer or hairbrush as a microphone and tell your reflection all your thoughts. One after the other. This makes us aware of the absurdity of our thoughts and at some point the words simply dry up.