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How to Stop Overthinking Everything

Like many self-help junkies, I like to read up on all the latest theories of growth, behavior, and happiness. Unlike most people though, I like to test them haphazardly on myself, my loved ones, and on innocent bystanders. I do this for 3 reasons:

  • I like tangible, real world applications
  • I don’t like to use my clients as guinea pigs
  • I still hold onto the belief that somewhere out there is a magical, concrete theory that would explain my past mistakes, adorably neurotic behavior (yes, that’s how I describe it) and would generally make sense of the world around me.
  • While #1 and #2 have been helpful, #3 has gotten me into a bit of trouble. See, the problem with trying to “find yourself” is that you do a lot of unnecessary pathologizing, diagnosing, and, to put it bluntly, a lot of thinking.

    The truth is that thinking isn’t always a good thing.

    Sure, thinking is helpful when you’re debating that 3rd drink, 3rd slice of pie, or 3rd glance at Facebook in 5 minutes. But, for those of us who are bright, anxious, or bored, we engage in what I like to call the intelligence dilemma. Simply put, it’s the desire to over-think things into oblivion.

    Let me give you an example. Earlier in the month, my boyfriend left for a long trip to London. After dropping him off at the airport at 8pm, I returned home to:

  • Organize my closet
  • Write out my quarterly and yearly business plan
  • Write an article for Lifehack
  • Listen to a Tony Robbins lecture
  • Redesign my website
  • Needless to say it was the wee hours of the morning until I shut my laptop and crawled into bed. While some might see this productivity kick as a blessing, I chose to see it a coping mechanism. I decided that my brain was protecting itself from feeling pain by overworking instead of missing him.

    I started worrying. Was this going to be my new go to way to escape my feelings?
    Was I going to have to join one of those Overworkers Anonymous Groups?
    Was I going to be the kind of person who needs an IV drip of coffee and a Bluetooth headset implanted in my brain?!

    As I began my spiraling descent into crazy town, I caught myself and asked, “what would I say to a client going through this?”

    I’d likely say, “Is this in any way hurting your life? No? Then why are you questioning it?”

    As anyone who has previously employed/enjoyed a poor coping mechanism knows, there’s always the fear that we are running away or not doing enough to face our demons. This fear is fueled by all the self-help tips to feel our emotions and question our behavior. (Yes, I know I’ve shared that exact advice before, just go with me on this.)

    While that’s often right, here’s the thing we often forget: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Whatever you look for is what you will see. If you’re determined to believe you are crazy, not only will you believe it, but you’ll start to act in a way that confirms it. Leave the diagnosing to the professionals and let yourself feel free.

    When you start to over-think, ask yourself:

  • Is what I’m doing getting in the way of my health or happiness?
  • Am I hurting anyone?
  • Am I likely to regret this?
  • If not, then just let it be. You’ll get the answers you need in time. The path to Enlightenment isn’t a sprint and doesn’t happen on your timeline. So chill out. Stop thinking. And just enjoy it.

    As for me, there’s plenty of time to miss him. And til then, I’ll just embrace and enjoy the work that I love. And I’ll take it one step further: In an effort to stop over-thinking, I’m not going to edit this post. May the grammar gods forgive me and my typos. But hey, you gotta start somewhere. Also, I’m hungry.