A Few Tips For Over-Thinkers On How To Stop Thinking So Much

Hi, my name is Meredith and I am a chronic over-thinker. (“Hi, Meredith.”) I suffer from the curse of reading into things way more than I should and finding extensive meaning in every single detail of life, no matter how small. “FMLFMLFML I just broke a glass while unloading the dishwasher at my job. How do I tell my boss?!?? I’m going to get fired!!!” “Crap. I just dropped a strawberry on the floor. This must be a sign that this diet just isn’t going to work for me, and I’m going to die fat and alone.” Okay, okay. So I may be exaggerating, but only ever so slightly (the broken glass one actually happened.)

If you’re not like me, believe me, I envy you. It must be nice to go through life not trying to search for the deeper meaning of what just happened or trying to figure out what is going to happen next. Granted, I’m almost positive everyone at some point in their lives will overthink some decision or happening. If you’ve managed to escape this strife, please, please share your secrets with the rest of us!

We’ve all done it – played out different scenarios in our heads, trying to think of every possible outcome. Don’t even try to say you haven’t once in your life experienced something along these lines because I won’t believe you. With all of these potential outcomes come the ever so lovely waves of anxiety. Sometimes, they’re just small ripples, and other times it feels like a typhoon is about to completely consume you. My advice to you is this (and trust me, I wish I had someone to tell me this 6 months ago) – stop. Take a step back. Ask yourself: is there really any positives coming out of this madness? If the answer is yes (and not some crazily justified ‘yes’ that you had to convince yourself of) – I’m talking a resounding ‘yes, there is a genuine reason fueling this fire going on inside my mind’ then, please, think away. But if there’s even the slightest negative, DO NOT THINK ANY FURTHER. Distract yourself. Read a book, go see a movie, craft something, hang out with someone, go for a run (okay so if you’re really like me, you definitely would have laughed out loud at the thought of you running but you get my point.)

Who am I to give you this advice? What are my qualifications? What is this, a job resume? Geez, calm down, crazy. You’re overthinking again. I’ll cut to the chase – most of my overthinking tends to focus on my (almost always nonexistent) love life. I drive myself absolutely nuts, getting wrapped up in my own mind, drowning myself with outrageous thoughts and daydreams. I’ll shed some light on what inspired me to write this article. Just about a year ago, I was trying to break out of my introvert cocoon and force myself to become a ‘bolder’ person, to be the go-getter type. Do what I want and get what I want. What did I want? A boy. Not just any boy, but a specific, very intelligent, awkwardly cute boy who shared my odd sense of humor and obsession with Half Price Books (the best store in the universe, in my opinion.)

Anyway, I’ll keep the story short: we go to college together, but are from different states. When we finally reunited back at school, things were awesome. You’ve heard it a million times, “I married my best friend.” ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘I found my best friend. This is going to be the best relationship. We’re going to get married. But wait where will we live? He wants to move to Seattle. I am so not leaving the Midwest. When do I get to meet the family? Will his parents like me?’ The questions go on and on. Mind you, this is all before we stated dating.

Eventually, I got the guy (self-five!). For the few months we were together, I was the happiest girl in the world, until I got a text to see him in the middle of the night and immediately knew it was the end. The reason? Exactly why we struggled to date in the first place: study abroad. I was pretty blindsided, because as much as I would sit in my room and think about what was going to happen when this boy who I was falling for with reckless abandon went to Spain and I went to England, he and I danced around the topic. It was the elephant in the room.

You’re probably asking why this is relevant to my overthinking and this is it: when this incredible human broke my heart, he attempted to soften the blow by saying, “I’m not opposed to revisiting this when we get back.” If he had said it just once, I would have thought about it on numerous occasions, yet I heard this phrase or something of the same meaning multiple times. How could I not think about how things would get better if only I could get past the next nine months? (Just to put it in perspective how much I overthought this relationship, when he broke up with me, my sister texted my best friend saying, “Go check on Mer. John just broke up with her.” His name was not John. It didn’t even start with a J. I was ready to marry this kid and my own sister didn’t even know who he was. What is that?)

This is where I wish I took the advice of my friends – the advice I gave you earlier. Stop. Take a step back. What is the positive of me constantly wanting the next nine months to fly by? There isn’t one. A semester abroad is supposed to one of the best, if not the best, things you can experience in your allotted time on this planet. All I wanted was to get to London and get back to Chicago in a heartbeat. (It was incredible and all I want is go to back to Europe.) I thought about that stupid sentence – “I’m not opposed to revisiting this when we get back” – a million times over. Find a distraction. Mine was writing, in this case, poetry. I started to write a poetry series called ‘365,’ mapping out the major details of my relationship with this boy – the pain, the happiness, the milestones (like our first date, etc.), all stuff that happened within a year. The breakup was somewhere around the day 170 mark. I tried to figure out what would happen from that moment on. I wrote the rest of the series. Day 365’s entry was me wondering if I would wish him a happy birthday. Seriously? Who thinks about the consequences of wishing someone a happy birthday? Answer: me. I do. Because I am a chronic over-thinker. (Here’s a tip: don’t have your distraction make you constantly think about whatever it is you were overthinking. It doesn’t help.)

Part of my inspiration for writing this article came from me overanalyzing songs that were shuffled on my iPod as I drove home from my friend’s house.  First song: Nobody Compares by One Direction. A song about trying to move on, yet seeing that no one can trump this phenomenal person. As I shamelessly belted out all the words, I couldn’t help but to think of this guy. This one guy. Do you know how many guys exist on this planet? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a lot.

So much so that I get overwhelmed with the amount of apparently single guys ages 19-23 within a 10 mile radius of me (thanks, Tinder – this is my distraction that I advised you to find earlier, remember?) Second song: Eyes to the Sky by Jon Bellion. A song about not knowing where you’re going in life, knowing what people expect from you, but remaining optimistic about what’s ahead. The hook is Jon literally saying that he knows he’s supposed to write a hook for this part of the song (a hook about money and riches), but he all he wants is to be happy. I took this as the iTunes Shuffle gods telling me that, while I might still be kind of, just a little hung up on this guy there is no reason to think about these things (or to keep thinking about these things) if it stops me from being happy. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m hung up on him but hey – nobody compares. I hate myself for that joke as much as you do right now.) It’s been something like 8 months since he and I broke up. Yes, he was supportive and sweet, smart and quirky, but that doesn’t mean that I will never find someone who isn’t all of those things and then some.

The next time you find yourself drowning in your stream of conscious, just remember: stop. Take a step back. What are the positives? Distract yourself. Last, but certainly not least, from one chronic over-thinker to another, just breathe. Find a way to remind yourself (I had a friend write ‘breathe’ in a fun font and got it tattooed on my wrist. What’s your reminder?) Sometimes a couple deep breaths is all you need to stop the whirlwind of thoughts racing through your mind. If you find yourself getting anxious as you overthink, you might forget to do the most mundane of activities, like breathing. Let that oxygen flow and let your over analysis go. Live in the moment. Listen to Jon: just be happy. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog