Photo by Kleigh Balugo
If I had a dollar for every time I ruined a perfectly good day with my own thoughts, I could probably buy so many effective distractions from my tendency to overthink. Often, it isn’t quite enough for everything to go right; as a chronic overthinker, I have to feel like everything will continue to go right, indefinitely. It’s a terrible habit of mine to scrutinize my life when things are looking up, going over a mental checklist to make sure nothing absolutely backfires on me: have I agonized over how much work I have to do this week (even though it probably won’t even be that much when I actually get to doing it)? Where is that cute shirt… Did I lose it in the laundry at school? Have I already hypothesized the trajectory of every relationship of mine that I value today? And a personal favorite: time to analyze the last conversation I had- and every reason why I might have made myself sound like a complete fool during it!
Thoughts like these, perfectly tailored to our own past experiences and anxious or people-pleasing or obsessive or otherwise unproductive tendencies are often inconveniently timed, hitting us in the midst of a night out with friends or when we’re trying our best to stay engrossed in the finale of a book. We’re all prone to turning over events of the past, playing them over and over like a gag reel, paranoically-imagined laugh track and all. Meanwhile, some of us try to predict the future, whether it be a nagging obligation one week from now or more existential worries about our lives five or ten years from now. Regardless, both are equally as panic-inducing and, in my experience, a surefire way to dampen what could’ve been a good day.
Admittedly, I don’t have many effective methods to combat being detrimentally analytical. Just a little over a week into summer break, I’m painfully aware of the amount of time I have to overthink- to rewind the events of the past few weeks, picking apart the minute conversations and interactions (why did I say that? It was a lot funnier in my head…) Sometimes, when boredom gets the best of me, I (for some sick and twisted reason) picture the next school year, which in itself is a mental Pandora’s box all on its own; I entertain visceral scenes of all the things that could go wrong while merely glossing over all the things that will certainly go right. While I’m thankful for time away from the stress of the school year, I sometimes find myself thinking that I might be better off restlessly shuttling between tasks and places and things to do- less time to myself might mean less time to fabricate intricate problems out of thin air.
Being aware that your thoughts carry such an impact on your mood and your days isn’t enough to change the way you think, though; all you gain from this might be some slight guilt that you and your thoughts are the only things stopping you from complete satisfaction. Still, I like to think that awareness is a step in the right direction. If you’re anything like me, lying in bed worrying about how your passion is going to pay the bills or agonizing over the way you waved a bit too eagerly to that acquaintance at the store, this is for you. I’m not telling you to completely lose your little system of logic and analysis, because that’s the last thing I’d want to do, no matter how much of a headache it is. Every now and then, though, try to stop thinking about the past and the future for the sake of a good day- completely in the present.