Saturday, July 25, 2015

Are you an over-thinker, like me?

IF THE headline of this piece grabbed your attention, there’s a good chance you identify as an over-thinker. Well, welcome to the club!

I am a chronic over-thinker. I over-think, well, pretty much everything. In fact, I over-thought this story for so long, I almost didn’t write it. Procrastination is a byproduct of an over-thinking mind. Over-thinkers tend to overexert the brain and consequently we over-analyse EVERYTHING.
Here are six signs that you’re an over thinker:

1. You suffer from decision anxiety

No decision is quick for the over-thinker. Over-thinkers micro-analyse every possible aspect of a decision, rehearsing potential scenarios and calculating outcomes in their head. The over-thinker is often burdened — actually make that paralysed — by indecision.

Being an experienced chronic over-thinker myself, eating out presents major challenges. The longer the menu, the more difficult my choice. I will agonise over the options, mentally weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of each dish. And when finally I come to a decision and order the mushroom risotto, I take one look at it and immediately wish I ordered the fish. Disappointment inevitably follows whatever decision I make.

2. You loathe confrontation

Over-thinkers are typically people pleasers. We like to be on everyone’s good side and we loathe conflict. If we think someone is upset with us, it will consume our every thought. Even seemingly insignificant interactions have deep meaning to the over-thinker. We worry (a lot) about how others perceive us, even strangers.

Recently, the lady in the fruit and veg shop was a little abrupt with me. Immediately my mind invented possible reasons. “Was it because I knocked over a punnet of strawberries with my pram, last month? But I apologised profusely and paid for the them …” And so begins my internal dialogue for the rest of the day. Over-thinkers have thin skins and take everything personally.

Bloggers, like me, are particularly sensitive to the ruthlessness of social media. Online comments sting and we will agonise over them for hours. It’s torturous. We’re devastated when someone unfollows us on Instagram. We won’t relax until we find out who, and more importantly, why?

3. Insomnia is your friend

The mind receives no respite for the over-thinker. Our minds are “busy”, “noisy” and “argumentative”. Basically they’re just bloody annoying a lot of the time. During the day our minds race and when our heads hit the pillow at night they race faster.

It’s almost as if my brain goes into overdrive just when I want it to shut down, scrolling through images of the day, a constant stream of thoughts and worries. The dusk till dawn hours are the worst. During these hours my mind is like a cerebral war zone; loud, conflicted and messy.

4. You are not ‘present’

Over thinkers are entirely incapable of living in the moment. Spontaneity is not our thing. Instead, we live in our heads. We are plagued by what ifs and hypotheticals, constantly second-guessing ourselves. We tend to worry unnecessarily and obsess about things we can’t change.

This meditation is relaxing, but am I relaxed enough? Am I smiling too much? Which fingers are supposed to be touching again?

Mindfulness is apparently the antidote to a busy mind but an over-thinker will over-think every step in a meditation. Instead of relaxing it seems to intensify our stress levels. “Am I doing this properly?” “What does my happy place look like? The beach, yes, sand, salt. No, not the beach. I feel itchy thinking of the beach … maybe the countryside.“ You get the drift.

5. You attach meaning to everything

Over-thinkers are experts at finding hidden meaning in a text message, email, conversation, suggestion, or “advice.” So, someone says, “You should try taking up yoga for relaxation”. Simple enough. Even helpful, perhaps. But the over-thinker immediately attaches an inference that mostly likely wasn’t intended. “She thinks I’m stressed. She thinks I am not coping. God, is she right? Is this because I was a little touchy the other day because I haven’t SLEPT in a week?”

6. You ‘get’ Nina Proud man

This one needs no lengthy explanation. If you recognise yourself in Offspring’s Nina Proud man, queen of over-thinking and over-analysing, then you will relate to the rather irritating voiceover representing the internal soundtrack of Nina’s insecurities as she mulls over every single detail of her life. Every. Single. Detail.

Yes, it’s exhausting being an over thinker. And if you’re a mum AND an over-thinker, well, you have my empathy. Last week I lost hours of my life in Target mulling over which lunch box to buy for my daughter. I spent far longer than is healthy in a plastics aisle assessing the multitude of BPA-free, PVC free, insulated options. My head hurt!

So, if you’re like me and tick all of these boxes, congratulations, you’re an over-thinker. If you’re currently using a SWOT analysis to calculate whether to have the chicken or the beef, you’re in the club. If your brain has too many tabs open, you’re in too! Membership is for life. It’s not all bad though. Over-thinkers may have trouble making micro decisions but we make ace friends and we’re loyal for life.

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