Dear Introverted Overthinker,
I see you over there in that corner, avoiding others so they don’t interrupt everything ruminating in your mind. It’s a sick cycle that keeps repeating itself. The more we overthink, the deeper we get. Maybe we’re overreacting? Maybe everything we’re stressing over is only in our heads? After all, that’s what everyone loves to tell us.
But there’s a feeling in your gut that tells you to keep stressing for a reason. What that reason is, you may never know.
Overthinking can sabotage so much. But it also shows us when something is important to us. You see, I’ve been in your position before. In fact, I’m always overthinking something. Sometimes it gets to the point of wishing I could be blissfully ignorant of everything around me. I’ve experienced those long, painful nights when I was torn between wanting to be alone and wanting to be held while I share everything running through my mind.
There are times when you need to unload to someone trustworthy. But sometimes, we make the mistake of trusting the wrong people. We put our innermost thoughts in the hands of a familiar stranger, i.e. someone we know yet can’t connect with on a deeper level no matter how hard we try. You know this type of person. Once those people show us they’re not fully equipped to handle us, we’re at a standstill, regretful of who we’ve opened up to while feeling even more alone in the process.
As an INFJ personality type, I tend to feel things deeply. So when I start to overthink things, I really go for it. Finding an off switch for my mind isn’t easy. Believe me when I say that getting a good night’s sleep has become a rare occurrence.
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I’ve found a few things to be helpful when my mind is miles ahead of me, and I’d like to share them with you:
1. Seek comfort. Whether it be music, a book, watching a good movie, or curling up in bed with a stuffed animal (if you have a pet this works too. Lucky!) Comfort is the number one thing we seek when we can’t regain focus, so whatever helps calm you down, find it! Safely, of course.
2. Write it out. Get out a pen and journal and write down everything that is making you stressed. First, make sure you’re in the right headspace before you start this exercise. Then, create a pros and cons list. Sometimes, I rip off the cons side and focus only on the pros. And you know what? It works. If you want to shake things up a bit, try keeping only the cons around. Focusing on the cons will remind you of what you’re getting yourself into in the long run. If you’re finding it easier to list cons, that might be your clue that you shouldn’t do whatever it is you’re thinking about doing. This makes your sticky situation a no-brainer. Every situation is different though.
3. Cry. This isn’t for everyone but I find that letting go of all of that pent up pain does wonders, especially at night. Interestingly, after crying, our heart rate and breathing decrease, and we enter into a calmer emotional state, according to Judith Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life. Tears actually shed the hormones and other toxins that accumulate in our bodies when we’re stressed. Studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, which are hormones that naturally soothe pain and make us feel good.
4. Take a walk. Seriously. Get out of the house and take a stroll somewhere where you can gain some clarity. It doesn’t have to be far. Try a park or someplace with pretty scenery. I usually find that things become clearer once I get out of my room. If you’re lucky enough to be outside on a sunny day, you’ll get an added benefit: sunlight boosts the levels of a natural antidepressant in the brain.
5. Talk it out. This one can be tricky, especially if you feel you don’t have a good support system. Find an online group (like the Introvert, Dear Facebook group) and ask for another’s opinion. Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to clear things up and help you see things differently. Which brings me to my next point.
6. Communicate. If the problem is with a friend or significant other, the best thing to do is to be open and completely honest with one another. By shutting out the other person, you’re only making it easier for you (or them) to overthink things while assuming the worst. Communication is the key to any relationship.
7. Take action. As introverts, we may put off making decisions because we’re looking for the “perfect” or “right” solution. This can lead to overthinking. Instead, try becoming a person of action—especially when it comes to “little” decisions like whether or not to go to the party or buy those shoes. In some situations, making any decision is better than not making a decision at all. For bigger problems—like what college to attend or if you should stay with your partner—take small steps to move yourself forward and only focus on one step at a time. If your choice doesn’t feel right, you always have permission to change your mind.
8. Breathe. I know it sounds simple written down, but breathing reduces stress. The key is to breathe deeply from your abdomen, getting as much air as possible into your lungs. Try these techniques from HelpGuide.org:
- Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
Then, imagine yourself letting go of whatever is bothering you. Try it. It can’t hurt.
9. Realize you’re only human. This is the most important step. We sometimes forget that we are only human and that we cannot solve everything right away. There is only so much one person can do and the sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be.
Just breathe and remember that you’ve got this! Once everything is settled, you’ll wonder why you ever drove yourself crazy in the first place. I think that calm feeling at the end of it all is something that we can all agree feels amazing. Nothing is ever as bad as it may feel–let that guide you the next time you start overthinking yourself into oblivion.
Now if only I could get better at taking my own advice…
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Read this: 12 Ways to Own Your Introversion