Do You Think Too Much?by Elise Museles
The whole family was sound asleep while my third cup of green tea was slowly getting cold next to my laptop. I’d been squinting into my computer screen for hours like my life depended on it.
It was a big-time project I’d been working on, and my deadline was just around the corner. No, this wasn’t a procrastination issue. I’d been chipping away at it, section by section, for weeks (okay months).
The problem was: I was sitting still, but my head was moving at a million miles per hour.
Suddenly, the color choices, font selection, email sequences, and social media promotion plans started running together in my head. My thoughts were like bumper cars smashing into one another.
With all that noise going on (inside my head), it was impossible to concentrate, and impossible to work. Yet there I was, trying to force myself – again – because it had to be perfect. Every “i” had to be dotted, and every “t” crossed, or I wouldn’t sleep again. Ever.
But the more I tried… the dizzier I got with the details.
Can you think of a time (or a thousand times) when you tried so hard to engineer an outcome that you drove yourself completely insane? What happened? Did you finish the project, stick with your diet, follow through with your intention…or just quit because the process became too cumbersome? Or maybe you achieved your goal, but didn’t enjoy the journey.
Why the devil’s in the details
There’s a very specific curse on overthinkers: we sweat the small stuff. Every. Single. Day.
While being detail-oriented means we consistently produce good work or “get things done” or “follow through with the plan”, there’s a point of diminishing returns. When we scrutinize every angle of a situation, we can get so caught up in the details that we can’t see straight anymore. To make matters worse, we end up worrying needlessly and creating a whole heap of extra stress.
Has that ever happened to you? Yep, my hand is raised, too.
Overthinking has a way of sneaking in under the radar. You might presume it’s just one project, one new diet, one workout, one vacation to plan, but soon it all starts to add up…and weigh you down!
The worst part is that your hyperactive brain makes all these decisions feel like life or death. And while your detail-oriented mind has likely played a huge role in your successes… it can also hold you hostage.
When every decision you make requires a complete and thorough analysis, you get so caught up in the nitty-gritty that you lose sight of the big picture and get stuck in place. All the pleasure gets sucked out of the process as you stir up unnecessary stress and anxiety. (Remember those hours you spent meticulously mapping out meal plans, counting carbs and calories, and precisely measuring every bite? How fun was that?) Eventually, the situation becomes so complicated; it’s suddenly easier to just give up rather than follow through.
Well, Overthinkers of the world – it’s time we stood up and told our detail-crunching brains: enough already!
Here’s exactly how we’re going to do that:
First, step away. Athletes need time to replenish and recharge – so do you and your brilliant mind. Maybe you need to remove yourself from the complex situation, or an effort that’s not creating your desired outcome.
Next, take a deep breath. Exhale. Then take another breath. Exhale. Third breath. And out again. Relax. Stress creates an excess of the hormone cortisol, which sends your adrenals into overdrive. Deep breathing forces your body to switch into a lower gear.
Now, it’s time to dig deep. Ask yourself: “Is this excess worrying and fear of not being perfect or doing things the ‘right way’ preventing me from completing my projects, sharing my gifts with the world, and enjoying the process?”
Consider these three questions:
- Does it really matter? (C’mon. Be honest here.)
- What is the worst possible outcome?
- Will this really make a difference tomorrow? And the next day and the next…
Answer yourself fully and thoroughly. Continue with your deep breathing and relaxation. You’ll be amazed at what you see with a replenished set of eyes.
Question of the day: do you run into problems with overthinking, and flipping out over the smallest details? Does every decision you make seem monumental? Feel free to dive into THOSE details in the comments below.