I grew up hearing the slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”, and I took it to heart. I became an avid reader and did well in school, and I admired people who could think fast on their feet and were well-read. I still value these things and consider myself reasonably intelligent and bright, but I now have a different take on this well-known quote. Sometimes, too much thinking is not a good thing at all when left to my own devices.
Over the past few years, I have recognized that what I think dictates how I feel and what actions I take, and I have become keenly aware of my horrible habit of overthinking certain situations. While I have made significant progress in breaking my habit of going to the darkest recesses of my mind, I still have times, like last weekend, when I succumb to the irrational and negative swirl of thoughts and head down the rabbit’s hole into anxiety, fear, and self-loathing. Oh my! During this recent episode of overthinking, my close friend uttered a familiar refrain, “Why do you do this to yourself?! It’s like you want something to be wrong.” Ouch! It was somewhat harsh, yet spot on, proving that the truth can hurt indeed.
As I wrangled my chaotic thoughts and my anxiety subsided, my friend’s words lingered, and with a cooler head and calmer disposition, I continued to ponder my friend’s words. I honestly do not want something to be wrong per se, but I realized that my tendency to assume the worst in even the best of circumstances is an indicator that sometimes I have difficulty accepting that everything is “right”. Perhaps, I give too much credence to other sayings, such as, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, “Nothing lasts forever”, “Just wait for the other shoe to drop”, and so on. Perhaps, I don’t believe I am worthy of the goodness that comes into my life, although I would argue that point, as that is one negative belief I finally have let go of, as I love my perfectly flawed self these days. Perhaps, I prepare for the worst to happen, like a sort of anticipatory grief to try to lessen the pain if it does come to pass. Regardless of the reason for going from zero to sixty when it comes to overthinking, it definitely does not help the situation at hand, any of the people involved, or myself. Time to embrace the less is more approach pronto!
As so often happens when I decide to make a positive change in my own life, I find myself presented with opportunities to practice what I preach, and this past week was no exception. When faced with a few potentially anxiety-provoking and overthinking situations, instead of giving in to the negative feelings that waited in the wings, I acknowledged them, but chose different thoughts:
Everything is okay.
Whatever happens is in my best interest.
These feelings are temporary.
I’ve got this.
While none of these statements are particularly profound, when I allowed them to permeate my mind and heart, they had a profound effect on me. Replacing my negative thoughts with more positive ones helped me to focus on the reality of the situation, not the imaginary “what ifs”, and to use the time and energy that I would have wasted on overthinking to both think and act in a healthier manner. It was not always as easy as it sounds, but I know that practice makes perfect. Well, perfect may be a stretch, but practice leads to progress, and I am on my way to a happier ending with both shoes on and my mind intact.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story