Tips with Trish: Should I do it?

By Italee Catellon (TheLorian)

Dear Italee,

I have a really bad habit of overthinking. I know that some people say that, but I mean REALLY overthink. I’ll worry about making simple decisions way too much and end up missing out on fun things like hanging out with friends or even going out to eat. I mean, I’m glad I’m not impulsive, but at this point I overthink about the shirt I’ll wear. I’ve missed out on too many things because of this and I want to know where to draw the line instead of letting my mind take over. Any way to make this easier?

Signed,

Over Thinker

Italee says,

That sounds tough. By the sounds of it, reaching out was a huge step if you overthink some more mundane things. So first, thank you and be proud of yourself for writing! Second, let’s talk about what overthinking and where it comes from. Overthinking is fairly common. We wonder if we’re making the right choices and a lot of that comes from fear or anxiety. In many cases, we’ll tend to focus on what negative things could happen and it’s easy to fall down that rabbit hole. Usually, people go down that rabbit hole, ponder for a bit, then crawl out and go about their day. In your case, you may as well call yourself Alice for how far down you go!  

As for where it comes from, it could be a variety of things. It could be from some mental diagnoses like PTSD, trauma, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, or a number of other mental illnesses. When it comes to anxiety disorders, many of them have overthinking as a symptom. For example, a person with panic disorder might ruminate and overthink when they are going to have a panic attack again. They obsess over something that could trigger their attack. Not only are they anxious, they now have meta-anxiety, which is anxiety about being anxious. Overthinking their panic attack made it feel more daunting.

Then again, you don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to overthink. Sometimes we may be unable to forget that really awkward handshake in the café or that one thing you said that just came out wrong to someone you just met. Maybe it’s about school, maybe it’s about how other’s see you. It could be anything and that’s what makes it so hard.

So what can you do about it? For one thing, we have to start being aware of it even happening. Be aware of what happens to you when you start overthinking. Does your heart race? Do you get fidgety or bite your nails? Does your mind race? Do you get irritable or fearful? Or maybe you space out while thinking. Take note of these things. These will be your signals that’s you’re overthinking again and it gives you a sign to step back.

Next thing to do is change your perspective and attention. Instead of what can go wrong, think of what can go right. Distract yourself with something that makes you happy like walking, music, art, pictures, or even talking to a friend. If new things bring you anxiety, think about the opportunities they’ll bring. Remember that you can’t predict the future, and accept your best instead of striving for perfection.

Remember that if it’s still overwhelming, the Counseling Center is always here to help! Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think things through at all. Instead, use this flow chart to make some more of those simple decisions. Hope it helps!

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