I saw a meme a few months ago that I posted on my Facebook page, and it resonated hugely with my community. It said, “It’s like no one in my family appreciates that I stayed up all night overthinking for them!”
We all laughed about it, because for many of us, it’s true! We often find ourselves lying awake at night thinking about every possibility that could happen in any given situation and how we might react.
Many of us are also what I fondly call “control freaks” and with that comes overthinking. And I include myself (sometimes a little too proudly) in this incredible group of women.
Overthinking can mean many things to many different people. For the purposes of this article, overthinking is the act of thinking about something or many things to the point where it:
Our brains are wired to make us cautious and concerned about any deviation from the status quo. Change and newness can register as danger in our brains and we start to think about any and all negative possibilities. This is often our brain doing its job to keep us safe. Status quo is often safe. But not always ideal.
There’s no problem with a “little” overthinking. But, for many of us, it can turn into a constant state of being – one which, at times, can become counterproductive and even harmful.
Overthinking typically results in anxiety which can, in turn, cause physical symptoms including elevated blood pressure, stomach upsets, headaches, and insomnia.
The anxiety that is caused by overthinking can, in some people, lead to depression. In addition, many of us who repeatedly weigh all of the possible “what ifs” in any given situation are doing this at the expense of doing other enjoyable activities. Or, even worse, not allowing themselves to live in the moment and feel the joy in an activity or experience that they are participating in!
The answer is simple: ANY action step.
If you are wondering whether or not you can kick a soccer ball and make a goal, here’s your answer. You will NOT make a goal if you never kick the ball. That’s a given.
So, we need to stop worrying about what “might” happen while we sit there and do nothing – and just do SOMETHING!
I work with women who are looking to redefine after 50 and some examples of first action steps (depending on what it is you are looking to do) might be:
Those thoughts will continue to sneak in, even while you move forward and take action on whatever your “thing” might be. After all, we’re over 50. We’ve been overthinking and wanting to be in control for a very long time! It’s not as if this way of life is just going to disappear with a single action step.
Ask yourself (and journal on it) “What’s the BEST thing that can happen if I do this thing or stop doing that thing or take this step?” Allow yourself to visualize what that best thing really looks like. In detail.
For example, imagine that your dream is to write a book. Ask yourself, “What’s the BEST thing that can happen?” Picture what your life looks like as a writer. Do you get up early each day and get your coffee and sit outside and write? Imagine yourself talking to publishers or taking a class on self-publishing. Picture yourself speaking to book groups. What are you wearing each day? Who is around you?
Write all of this down and look at it and add to it as you think of new details. When those sneaky overthinking voices come calling, take a minute and channel this vision.
Your vision of the BEST that can happen as you continue to take action steps on your “thing.”
Vincent Van Gogh summed the importance and effectiveness of taking action with this quote: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Do you tend to overthink? Do you have an idea of what your “thing” is, and is overthinking preventing you from moving forward? What might be a good first action step for you?