Ever since I was a child, I had always been afflicted with this “disease” — as Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky called it — of thinking too much.
This has been the bane of my existence, and it has plagued me for most of my life.
As a kid, I used to overthink about my loved ones. For example, my mom is asthmatic so she invariably has an inhaler with her. There were times when I would just obsessively overthink whether her inhaler was empty or not because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to her.
Moreover, my dad used to travel from Dumaguete to Guihulngan every day for work so this made me nervous because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him – like accidents, God forbid – when he’d ride the Ceres bus.
In college, I also used to overthink about my grades, how people – especially my parents – would think of me, and about my health [well, I had been my overthinking about my health since I was a kid].
However, I was able to manage these things quite easily due to a lot of distractions in my youth.
Life has changed, however, now that I’m a working adult. It has also changed with the series of deaths in the family starting in 2018, stressors at work, and my personal life.
My overthinking and anxiety have worsened, and they have taken a lot of time and patience, worse self-doubt, to deal with it. This has indeed become a disease – one which I have recognized, and now slowly starting to accept – that I’m trying to overcome for the nonce.
So how do I deal with this so-called disease? First and foremost, I need to have the will and courage to face fear.
Overthinking is a result of incessant fear of what will happen in the future. So I have to find the courage to overcome fear. It might sound easier said than done, but it really has to start with myself.
Second, I have to accept – and this has been taught by the Stoic philosophers – that there are things external to me that are beyond my control. I cannot control how people think, and I cannot know what really goes on in their minds.
All I can do, for the sake of my inner peace, and to prevent from further overthinking, is to focus on myself. Accept that my actions will always be interpreted in multifarious ways by others whose thoughts and behavior are beyond my control.
Third, I should talk only to trusted people about my problems and my bouts of over-thinking. I should not keep them to myself. I really need to air out what I feel; I wouldn’t want to self-implode, which would only indubitably lead to more problems.
And last, I should be the “master of my own thoughts” try to control it, so that it won’t harm me.
This is not to say that I’m not allowed to feel any emotions; on the contrary, I need to feel the pain when hurt, enjoy the moments of happiness, but to never allow negative thoughts to get the better of me.
Fear is like a scar in the mind. It will always linger in our thoughts. It is possible, indeed probable, that one may be able to rid of the scar, but we’ll always be reminded by it.
The best way to deal with it is not to be in denial about it, but to accept/embrace our fears. To recognize it but not to allow it to debilitate us.
My best friend’s mom reminded me once about a proverb when I sought her help about my anxiety and overthinking: You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.
Strange and evil thoughts may distract me anytime but I can choose not to dwell on them.
There is no doubt that medications help lessen the severity of anxiety and overthinking but it is only ephemeral. When I begin to fear losing people I love, I will try to make the most of my time to live in the present with them. When I start feeling afraid how others might think of me, I will accept the fact that whatever anyone thinks of me is beyond my control.
Admittedly, I had always feared how people in my work place perceive of me. But now, it doesn’t bother me anymore as their opinions do not truly matter to me.
One thing I have learned in life is that I cannot please everyone. People will always have varied [even unsubstantiated] opinions of each of us. The only thing I can control is how I will react towards those comments.
Oft-times, when we hear negative things about us, we get emotional, and may tend to fight back. But we can try to take a step back, discern whether acting like them is worth our time, or whether dignifying their viewpoint is helpful to our mental health. For me, we must not stoop to their level.
Suffice it to say, when we feel like we’re on the verge of overthinking, we can take a break from our thoughts, just pause and recognize it, then redirect our attention to something else. If it worsens, we can always seek help by talking to trusted friends, family members, workmates, if not medical experts.
We just have to remember that the more we overthink, the more we could be shrouded by the clouds of negativity.
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