Ahh, the curse of being an overthinker.
Coming from someone who frets about almost everything I’ve done since I was in primary school, I can safely say it’s anything but pleasant to have so many topics constantly lodged in the back of your head on the regular.
Sure, at times it’s handy in the sense that you might remember something you did recently and proceed to fix the situation, like forgetting someone’s birthday and apologising three weeks later (still kind of a dick move but at least it’s something), but more often than not it’s just a real pain.
However, you don’t have to be trapped with your thoughts forever – here are a few tricks you can do to get out of your own head.
Consider best-case scenarios
It’s not uncommon for overthinkers to jump straight to worst-case scenarios when they consider anything – quite literally anything at all.
Planning a trip overseas? Oh yep, you’ll 100% end up in a hostel room with a random who has an affinity for cutting locks of strangers hair while they sleep.
That leftover chicken bake that’s been sitting in the fridge for a tad too many days? If you eat it you’ll definitely get salmonella and be forced into quarantine for six years with no access to human contact, for some reason.
But what we can do – easier said than done, but hear me out – is turn these scenarios around and try to rationalise them. Sure, you might have an unfortunate hostel buddy, but you might also meet the love of your life. Yes, that chicken might be quite old, but if you’ve cooked it thoroughly you’re probably in the clear. (Or, you know, just throw it out.)
Taking a beat to really think about a situation can do wonders.
Get out of the house
You’d be surprised at how quickly you can get some peace and quiet from your own brain just by going for a casual ol’ stroll down to the shops or through a park – bonus points if you witness a kid having a full-blown meltdown on the slide, that’ll keep you perfectly (entertained?) distracted.
Now, I don’t know the exact science behind it, but for me, walking around seems to put my thoughts into some sort of order, so I can usually think about the more important issues and push the trivial subjects to the side.
Address what you can control
My Mum drilled this into me from a very young age – there’s no point stressing about anything that you can’t fix right then and there.
If you’re lying in bed at 2am and you’re stressing about a speech you have to make in a week’s time, or perhaps something you did a few years ago that still bugs you, try to remember that at the moment there’s absolutely nothing you can do so there’s no point focusing so much energy on it.
Instead, focus on the problems that you can control – if you’re worried about what to wear to an important event for instance, just plan it out then and there. It’s not always going to be that trivial but it’s always a good starting point to tackle the small stuff.
Listen to something when you go to bed
Okay, this one’s wildly anecdotal and probs won’t work for everyone, but it certainly works for me.
As someone who ends up falling into a serious thought-spiral just as I’m getting to sleep, chucking on a podcast or even listening to a tv show in the background keeps my mind occupied on other people speaking, and less on my own thoughts.
As I said earlier, there’s not much you can do at ridiculous times of the night, so if you truly can’t stop thinking about something, listen to your favourite poddy about serial killers – it might give you some hella scary nightmares but at least you’ll fall asleep eventually.
Chuck your thoughts into a list
Do you know how many times I pat myself on the back after simply writing a to-do list?Every. Single. Day. Not even doing the tasks themselves but just writing them down. That’s how much I love a good list.
It can be incredibly helpful if you put all of your thoughts on paper – if you have pressing matters or important business, pop them in as higher priorities than, say, figuring out what happened to Amelia Earhart.
If you can physically look at everything that’s on your mind, it’ll tend to be easier to address each one when you need to.
Talk to someone about it
Life hack: find friends who are willing to put up with a constant barrage of texts as you send them every thought that pops into your head.
Even better, find a few friends so that you can spread your thoughts around and get fresh perspective from different minds. Simply talking to a friend or family member about anything that’s bugging you can make a world of difference, and often they’ll be able to tell you if you’re being a bit silly or if your worries/thoughts/feelings are completely valid.
Failing that, or if you don’t feel comfortable hounding your friends 24/7, you can talk to a professional – they’re there to help.
To find out more, head to headspace. They have over 100 centres set up all across Aus, so you can chat with people who know what they’re talking about and are actually trained in this area.
If you or someone else needs support in a crisis situation please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the police on 000 for emergency support.