I am calm, safe, and serene. Ich bin ruhig, sicher und geleassen.
These are the words I say to myself when I get too caught up in my thoughts. When I am unable to stop the constant and endless cycle of overthinking. When I feel like I am unable to breathe.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about this topic for a long time but the vulnerability that comes with it always made me hesitate. I was never quite ready to talk about it. Not ready to admit that I overanalyze and overthink so many situations and decisions I make. I am not even sure if I am now.
Last week when I had a little overthinking meltdown I asked what your favorite tips are when you start overthinking. The fact that so many people responded made me feel less alone. Your tips were great, and encouraged me to write this blog post, share my experience, and your tips and hopefully help some of you out there who are going through the same. You got this.
The feeling of not being good enough
I’ve always been an overthinker. Since I was a kid, I always wondered what other people thought of me. I always wanted to be like my friends or my favorite book characters always tried to please other people, scared I am not good enough. I thought I could do this best if I was like someone else. The problem starts when it gets unhealthy. When these innocent, little thoughts become a never-ending cycle of overthinking.
In high school, my overthinking and worrying got so bad that I developed chronic headaches/migraines. For about three years there wasn’t one day where I didn’t suffer from a headache. Eventually, I developed panic attacks, and going to school became very painful. The funny thing is that I am sure not a lot of people noticed. So many things we are going through are internal and invisible to other people. When it got unbearable I went to the washroom, tried to calm myself, and then went back to the classroom as if nothing happened.
It’s a journey
I went to so many different doctors but none were able to help me or knew what kind of medication could help with my headaches. It was very tiring and frustrating, not only for me but also for my parents. I am still so thankful they went through all of it with me.
Kind of unexpectedly, I finally found a doctor who was able to help me. I cannot stress how important it is to have someone to talk to. For me, it was very helpful that this person had an objective view of the situation. She was able to help me think through situations and declutter thoughts. I loved talking to her and was always looking forward to the appointments. She taught me to say: I am calm, safe, and serene.
Over time I noticed that most of my fears were in my head. For instance, I always thought I would get sick on boats or that I am scared of heights. The moment I was able to let those thoughts go, I felt calmer and realized that the situation wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I am still not a big fan of boats or crowds or tiny rooms but I am at a point where I can handle it. Some days better than others but that’s okay. After all, it’s a journey, am I right?
Where I am at now
My overthinking is not gone. Definitely not. But it’s different now. I definitely don’t suffer from constant headaches anymore and I barely experience any panic attacks, thankfully. However, I can still get into endless thought cycles and tend to interpret too much into a text message, a situation, or a decision.
From mediation, I learned mindful breathing. So, whenever I get into an endless cycle of thinking I take deep breaths and count to 10. One with the rising sensation (breathing in) and two with the falling (breathing out) up to a count of ten (learned it from Headspace). I always try to bring my attention back to my surroundings and become aware that I am overthinking and the situation or problem is only in my head.
My fear of not being good enough and that I will disappoint people is still there and sometimes I get so far into my head that I forget anything else exists. Sometimes I just want to turn off my head. I will probably never get completely rid of those thoughts, they are a part of me but it’s important for me and for you to realize that you are overthinking. It’s important to take your time, do something good for yourself and talk about it. It’s important to realize your worth and that you ARE good enough.
Honey, you are overthinking. But you know what? You got it.
- Do yoga
- Go for a run
- Bake a delicious cake
- Meet/spend time with friends
- Watch an adventurous movie (Gilmore Girls always helps me!)
- Start drawing while listening to music
- Avoid caffeine
- Meditate to calm the mind
- Take a deep breath, write down your thoughts, look at what you can actually do. Throw the list away
- Talk it through with someone you trust
- If you start overthinking, get up. Move a little. This breaks the chain of thoughts.
- Try to get out of your head by bringing your attention back to the now (use your senses!)
- Don’t think of what can go wrong but what can go right
- Brain dump on paper. Then read over it and ask yourself: is it really that bad?
- Realize you are overthinking and then start mindful breathing
- Journal to organize your thoughts
- Think positive
- Try to remember that all you can control is your own thoughts and actions
- You don’t have to control everything. God will take care of it all (Rom. 8:28)