Hold my beer, I need to overthink this!

“If overthinking was an Olympic sport, I could compete for the gold, if, I decided to enter the event,” the man said. There lies the problem, getting past the thinking stage. Just kidding, I’ve over-thought this and I’m fine. I’m almost sure.

Overthinking is defined as “a loop of unproductive thoughts” or “an excessive amount of thoughts that are unnecessary.” – Domina Petric, MD

For the record, overthinking is classified as a “disorder,” and Dr. Petric writes about different levels of overthinking. I’m already overthinking this is a serious thing!

“‘Thinking too much’ idioms typically reference ruminative, intrusive, and anxious thoughts and result in a range of perceived complications, physical and mental illnesses, or even death.” Holy shit! This statement is from an article entitled, “Thinking too much: A systematic review of a common idiom of distress,” by Kaiser BN, Haroz EE, Kohrt BA, Bolton PA, Bass JK and Hinton DE (2015). I imagine these folks are the life of the party.

What happens when you overthink? Your brain overworks: if it was a race car, your brain would be taking a victory lap at the Indy 500. If you struggle to make decisions, don’t worry, you’ll soon be second-guessing yourself, so you can choose again, and again, and again…

What could go wrong when you overthink? Everything and mostly the worst things. You might assume the best…wait, who does that? It’s always what could go wrong, and you start imagining each and every possible outcome.

Worrying and overthinking are cousins. Introduce overthinking with fear and you get worry, which borrows time from the future to overthink in the present.

Who hasn’t over-thought about something? I’ve done it. Lost sleep over an upcoming presentation, interview or date? Admit it. Where it becomes a concern is when it rattles your confidence or introduces doubt.

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something you considered doing? Maybe it was a little out of your comfort zone, but very doable. Suddenly you go from ready to launch to failure to launch. And the problem was – in your head. Fear. You feared failure, so guess what? You failed. The self-fulfilling prophecy.

We all overthink, but most of us don’t let overthinking steer our lives. Sometimes when we overthink, we make assumptions. We’ve figured out the problem before we have the information. Actually, this might be a case of under-thinking, but the result is the same.

The world is full of things we do not control, or even know about. The unknown is bigger than the safety of what we understand. Every step forward has a little uncertainty to it, that’s the gamble, and the reward.

Another aspect of overthinking is not being satisfied with the obvious outcome or choice. We keep looking for something else. Maybe a more favorable, but less likely outcome, when we really know better. But do we? Why can’t we accept the more logical conclusion? Denial is a more complex issue to unravel.

I’m no doctor, I don’t even like Dr. Pepper or Dr. Phil, but I can tell you with some certainty that overthinking is a common behavior, as unproductive as it is. Taken to an extreme it becomes a problem, rather than a slight, quirky personality trait.

Im a believer in the old adage, never talk about a problem unless you offer a solution, or can make the problem worse.

First, I’m going to start a group: Over-thinkers Anonymous. Well, I’m thinking about starting a group. And I’m not sure of the name, I might change that. Suppose I schedule the first meeting and no one shows up? The initial meeting would held in conjunction with International Over-Thinking Day, observed annually on April 7.

Second, here are a few tips to combat over-thinking:

  • If you are having trouble sleeping because your brain won’t disconnect from a worry, you should drink more, make a booty call, or go ahead with that airport heist you’ve fantasized about.
  • That one thing you can’t get out of your mind, switch and over-think about a bigger issue. Keep doing that until you run out of things to worry about.
  • Trust your gut. Initial thoughts are usually correct. Unless of course your gut told you to invest in Betamax technology or drinking Clorox to keep Covid away.
  • Too much in your head? You’ll know it when you start having conversations with yourself. Listen carefully for any stock or investment tips. Earnings from internal financial advice are deductible on your taxes.

These are silly examples, but I list them to make a point. Thinking too much and thinking too little can have disastrous consequences. There is a time to go with your gut instinct and a time to slow down and be reflective. The challenge is not to confuse the two.

The phrase “in your head” denotes a potential over-thinking result. Too much head time invites doubt, second-guessing, over-analysis and rabbit-hole trips. I like this phrase from a study: “a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind” (p. 932; Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010).

Be careful what you feed your head, Alice. Now, give me back my beer.

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