On the list of most useless actions, overanalyzation lies right there in-between refreshing your Facebook page over and over while you procrastinate and taking online quizzes that tell you which Disney character you are. Don’t get me wrong, introspection is a very underrated skill and people who overanalyze tend to be more creative.
As Dr. Adam Perkins, an expert in neurobiology of personality puts it:
“Cheerful, happy-go-lucky people by definition do not brood about problems and so must be at a disadvantage when problem-solving compared to a more neurotic person. We have a useful sanity check for our theory because it is easy to observe that many geniuses seem to have a brooding, unhappy tendency that hints they are fairly high on the neuroticism spectrum. For example, think of the life stories of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, etc. Perhaps the link between creativity and neuroticism was summed up most succinctly of all by John Lennon when he said: ‘Genius is pain.’”
But we’ve all been there.
Paralyzed by indecision as our thoughts race, diving into possible pathways each action could(‘ve) take(n). Little problems become big problems. Positive occurrences get deconstructed until you’re too far into your head to enjoy them. Being able to control this curse then, will literally give you peace of mind. However it also comes with another caveat, the gifts will only be accentuated.
For example you would be able to make decisions with precision and speed, create more, better experiences through an overactive imagination, and use your skills of overanalyzation to build yourself rather than tear yourself down through a heightened sense of self-awareness. Here are a couple simple ways you can tame the overanalyzation beast.
Focus On Key Points
In his book Managing of Organizations, Bertram Gross states:
Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.
One of the problems associated with information overload is our inability to assign the correct weight to each piece of information. There is a 4 -step approach that will help you make decisions you won’t regret and move on from situations.
- Figure out your core values
- Cut out information accordingly until you have 4-5 key points.
- Rank the information in accordance to your values
- Figure out the general theme of the information you’ve gathered. Which direction are they pointing you?
Get Out of Your Head
When you catch yourself overanalyzing, stop it in its tracks with this simple trick. Once you realize you’re overanalyzing, label it as such ie. “I’m overanalyzing right now.” Take some deep breaths from your diaphragm. And then distract yourself from it by making simple observations on your surroundings ie. “That is a fat cat,” all while taking deep breaths. Eventually you’ll have let it go or you’ll be calm enough to return to it later.
One reason we overanalyze is because we feel a level of helplessness. We look at overanalyzation as a skeleton key to all our problems. But there comes a time when you have to accept that you’ve done everything in your power and it’s time to either shit or get off the pot.
Let’s say you want to move to New York. You’ve been wanting to do ever since you were 3’4 and eating Lunchables during recess. But you’ve planned and you’ve planned and still it remains a dream.
Have you done everything possible to minimize the chances of you sleeping on the floor? If yes, then it’s time to press the red button.
There are always going to variables in the equation. Once the fixed variables have been dealt with, accept the fact that the unknowns will have to be figured out along the way. It’s part of the fun.
Keep Your Head Up
It’s more than a Tupac song. Good posture and keeping your head up can do wonders to alleviate the stress and anxiety that comes with overthinking.
Psychologist Amy Cuddy states:
“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes. … Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it.”
She conducted a research on the topic of how body language affects the hormones in your brain. What she found was that certain body positions (such as good posture and keeping your head up) dubbed “power poses” help decrease cortisol or the stress hormone.
If you haven’t watched the TED talk on this yet, I suggest you do. It’s right here.
Condense Your Overanalyzation
It’s like an earworm (a song stuck in your head). The more you try not to think about it, the more you think about it! One of the ways of getting rid of an earworm is to simply listen to the song in its entirety.
Likewise don’t fight it. At the same time don’t go too far. Embrace it like the child of a single parent you’re seeing. There are two ways to go about this.
- Resolve to give it your full undivided attention later.Personally, I have two periods in the day which I dedicate to overanalyzation. When I meditate in the morning, and when I shower at night. Once in the morning makes me calmer during the day and once at night allows me to tie up loose ends before I sleep. Condensing your overanalyzation in this fashion gives your thoughts a half-way conclusion so they don’t take away from your tasks at hand.
- Drop everything and take care of it right now. Sometimes the emotions associated with the thoughts are too strong and you cannot put it off for later. In these cases, the solution is to just drop everything and give it your full undivided attention. If you’re sleeping, get up and resolve the issue. If you’re working, stop for a minute so you can come back to it with focus. If you’re driving…use your discretion.
The key in both options is to set a time limit so you can resolve your issue without letting overanalyzation get out of hand.
The next time you catch your thoughts jumping into a F1 racer, reel it in by:
- Cutting out unnecessary information
- Taking some deep breaths and dangle another piece of string for your brain to latch onto
- Accept you cannot control everything
- Be mindful of your body language
- Procrastinate and promise you’ll give it your full focus later