I don’t know about you but I’m an over-thinker. I like to think. I like to ponder. I'm an intellectual, and intellectuals think the answer to every problem lies in how they think about that problem. As I've grown older, a double-edged sword, I've realized this is not true. But even so, old habits are hard to break and when there’s a problem in my life sometimes I can’t stop my brain ruminating.This is usually because:
There is no immediate solution,
For some reason I’m too ‘close’ (feeling too strongly, can’t think outside the box) and thus can’t get the perspective I need.
Mostly, I can learn to let go of the things I don’t have any immediate control over, but boy when I need to figure something out and I can’t, I turn into a frazzled mess. The problem is that overthinkers like me, or maybe you, keep using the same technique over and over until the technique no longer works. There’s a saying that repeating a behavior expecting different results is a sign of stupidity. Well, perhaps not stupidity, but I do think it is an indication you need to step back from the problem.
But what if you’re so upset, so emotional, you simply can’t step back. You need an answer right now. You sit there thinking and thinking, certain that if you only thought about it in the right way everything would fall into place. What do you do then?
It’s very simple, and I think you’ll find it enjoyable.
When I’m this determined to find a solution, I don’t find television effective, or playing games, or eating something tasty or surfing the net. When I’m so wrapped up in solving a problem I need physical distance
. I know it sounds weird to try and get physical distance from your own mind. It’s impossible, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes the environment we’re in is helping to sustain our ‘stuck-ness
What really helps is doing something that literally takes you away from your everyday life.
Personally, I like to drive with my music up loud, a loaf of bread in my passenger side seat to the nearest duck pond. Here in Australia, it’s just turned summer. There are ducklings and goslings everywhere near me and after singing my head off and feeding cute little animals (watching me coo and squeal over baby animals is a a sad sight I can tell you) I feel a lot better. It’s something really simple, but it always works.
No, it isn’t a solution, but neither is ruminating, worrying, and sending my body into a stressed mess. On my worst days, I can get so stressed that I wake up with sore muscles the next day. Now that's tense! So I've learned to short-cut that by accepting the uncomfortableness of the stress I'm experiencing by forcing my mind away from the problem.
Give yourself permission to not have it figure out. Give yourself permission to step away from the problem. No, really, I mean it!
What if you don’t feel like getting away from the problem? What if it’s just too much hard work?
Well, I have an answer for that also. Often there are things we put off doing because they seem too hard, but they really aren’t. We make them hard in our minds. Sure if you're physically limited by what you can do, perhaps sitting on your back lawn and looking at the clouds might help. It doesn't matter what you have to do, find a way to stop the over-thinking.
I suggest mindfulness.
There might be some initial struggle, but once you get that momentum going, the struggle/stress/hardship is replaced by relief and peace. So it’s worth it.
So make yourself distract and detach for a while. Give yourself the space you need to get perspective and let those emotions calm down. You might be convinced your strong feelings and racing thoughts are a sign you're not thinking about things the right way, but it's actually a sign the thinking is the wrong tactic to use at that point in time.
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Last reviewed: 3 Dec 2012
Coulter, K. (2012). Stuck In An Over-Thinking Rut?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on March 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/observations/2012/12/stuck-in-an-over-thinking-rut/