The first time I remember someone telling me not to think too much was when I was trying to figure out breastfeeding. “Don’t overthink it,” my friend said, “just do it.”
“Just keep going” is not something I do. I have to really understand what I’m doing and then I think of almost every possibility and eventuality, like a mind map on steroids. And I plan. When people say things like: “Who could have imagined XYZ would happen?” About some completely predictable outcome, my most common answer is “could.” I have realized that for most people I am an overthinker, but for me, it is others who do not think too much. I just think.
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that my overthinking, like most things, probably started in childhood. I had a loving childhood, noisy but sometimes unpredictable. Dinner was always on the table at the same time and it was always delicious. My mother and father were always, physically, where they said they would be. But I grew up in a house where emotions were undiscussed, suppressed, only to explode in random unpredictable ways, or silence would ensue from some bad deed that I had to unravel for myself.
I became a natural observer, capable of taking the temperature of a room, capable of observing the micro movements of people, listening to their language, their tone. All of this became second nature to me. Sometimes today my children and my husband think I am a mind reader, but of course I am not. I have just observed what has been said, what has happened, and I have realized what they might do or say. So sometimes I answer a question before they ask it and they think I have a super power.
Maybe it didn’t help that, fresh out of school, I joined the military, where you had to think not once, but several times about the simplest task because it was all a potential trap. “Build a [model] bridge of these 120 bricks? “Sure. But count the bricks first because often they wouldn’t give you the number of bricks they said. Message: Check the basics, always. While you were taking a written test, someone would come in to give the supervisor a message and then you would be told to describe to that person who just walked in while you are concentrating on something else.
The message there never let its guard down. I once surprised my examining officer by giving him such a detailed description of a person that he had to turn to page A4 to take notes. (It helped that I was in love with the person I was describing and had spent many hours looking at him. But I still sometimes jot down the descriptions of people in my head in case I need to.)
In my daily work like guardianThe agony of the aunt overthinking is important, vital. I once had a complaint against me and they called the readers’ editor’s office to ask me to show my work. Because I had anticipated a problem, the notes pages, the call times, the verification appeared. “God,” said the editor, “I see.”
Of course, this can be exhausting. And it is. I didn’t realize how much I was thinking until one day someone asked me what I was thinking (as a child I was a natural dreamer) because I was quiet. I went through what I had been thinking for the last minute and it was a different thought for every second. The look of horror on his face said it all. “All of that in the last 60 seconds?” “Sure,” I said, “what have you been thinking about?” I asked. “Soap,” they replied.
I have to be very careful to have limits and give myself time off because burnout is never far away. And I have to be careful not to end up doing people’s thinking / memory storage for them, like a remote hard drive. Because, like all emotions and ways of working, there is a positive and a negative side. Thinking too much, going wrong, may have to do with anxiety. I consulted Susanna Abse, a psychoanalyst, to ask her what the distinction is.
“There is a difference between persevering and reflecting,” he said. “It’s about whether you are repeating something in your mind over and over again [without a resolution] or if you can sit back and reproduce something and learn something useful. “Abse also said that” in an action-centered world, being a thinker is not necessarily a bad thing. But ruminating in a way that leads nowhere can be a sign of anxiety “.
The difference is between being worried but helpless and overthinking, which leads to something “lying down.” The former is not great and if that is you (and it has been me in the past), then you may need to see what is causing your anxiety. Even if you think too much, figuring out the root cause can take time. I imagine myself spiraling down from the problem to the root, and I usually know that I have hit it because I feel upset or defensive. You can do it yourself or ask a trusted friend to ask “then what” to help you find the problem. Another helpful question to find out the “root cause” is: what needs to change to make me feel better? The interesting thing is that when I am with people who think too much, I relax. I let them think for me. When I am with subthinkers this leads me to overload, because I feel that I am not “sure”.
My number one advice is: if you are an overthinker, try not to spend too much time with those who do not think too much, as you will end up thinking not only for yourself, but also for them. I tend to prefer traveling alone and definitely try to avoid traveling with subthinkers, or else I end up feeling like I’m leading a school trip.
Times of anxiety can make the thinker race. You’ve thought and planned all that time and yet something has gone wrong! You feel like more thinking is needed, when in reality what you need to do is step back and stop. At times like these, I need to check myself (I found CBT enormously helpful with coping mechanisms).
In general, I love overthinking, it is enormously enriching. No less important is who I am, so now I accept what it gives me, which is a very rewarding mental world. I follow him now instead of fighting him. But when things go a little wrong, the following tips are the ones that have been helpful to me, because for me, focusing on just one thing is a difficult decision.
1) Yoga, but it takes me a good 10 minutes to settle down and get started. Yes, I hated yoga too and anyone who suggested it. One-legged poses really show off those who overthink. We found them almost impossible at first, but if you can do them, they will help quiet your mind. Alternative breathing through the nostrils it works because it helps balance the emotional / logical sides of the brain.
2) I’ve learned never to try to “clear your mind”, it’s not going to happen. Instead, try challenging your brain in what I consider to be a form of soft focus, like counting in three from 100. Looking out the window of a car (if you are not driving) or a train is also incredibly relaxing and closer that I can get to clear my mind.
3) Repetitive tasks are your friends: that’s why running is the friend who thinks too much. Knitting is another. Fairly unconscious (for God’s sake, avoid Fair Isle and four-needle knitting) but absorbent. The same goes for sewing. If I don’t have anything on hand, then rhythmic music (1990s trance for me) is incredibly relaxing as it almost tunes into my brain waves and helps me relax.
4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, narrow your focus to the next five minutes and no more, and ask yourself, “What do I need now?” and then focus on that. Grounding is really helpful too, like feeling the ground under your feet or thinking, “What can I hear right now? What can I see? “To get you out of your busy head and into the outside world.
5) Overthinking can release adrenaline, so it helps to find something safe that takes minimal planning to help release that. So it’s not bungee jumping, which would send an overthinker into overdrive.
My last tip is something that never fails to recalibrate me: cold showers. Start slow, but try to build up to two or three minutes in water below 15 ° C. Cold showers have all kinds of health and psychological benefits, but in those three minutes, I don’t think about anything else. Darling.
Annalisa’s new podcast series, Conversations with Annalisa Barbieri, It is now available
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism