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  • Aditi Surana

Do you overthink?

In the face of this lockdown, I’ve been receiving several questions from people on Instagram. Many of them ultimately end in - What am I going to do? What if anyone gets infected in my family? What if I lose my job? What if they ask me to take a pay cut? What if we never go back to where we left our project, relationship or even our lifestyle? I worked so hard to plan this wedding, event, trip & now here we are… what am I going to do?

Let me begin my response to this pressing question by saying - you are not alone. We are in this together. Not in an esoteric way but even practically. For the first time in human history, we are seeing a direct impact of one person’s action on the entire society. One responsible or one irresponsible person can prevent or spread the infection. It’s an ‘all or none’ situation. 

Let me take a moment to rephrase your question. It’s not what am I going to do, but it is what we are going to do? No matter what shows on the other side of the lockdown, this is what we are going to do.

  • we are going to do the best we can and give ourselves some credit;

  • We are going to ask for help and help anyone we can,

  • we are going to appreciate what we got;

  • we are going to redefine what’s important now;

  • we are going to skill up - in a big way - by learning some survival hacks, inculcating good routines & even teaching our kids to be part of this learning,

  • We are going to cherish every single interaction with people we love - a hug, an eye contact, mere physical presence

  • We are going and treat others with kindness and respect;

  • And most importantly, most importantly... we are going to emerge even better on the other side of this. Better because we are not going to give up on ourselves and we are not going to give up on each other.

Now we have to do the best we can to be ready. Physically as well as mentally. So first thing first; Get to a physical regime. I am no expert in this field of physical fitness, but I know with my work as a coach that mind and body are closely associated. In order to stop all that over thinking, we can rely on some physical regime. Go ahead. Be as innovative as you can.

Some of you genuinely believe that these thoughts are uncontrollable and there is no way for you to put a stop to it. While everyone overthinks a few things once in a while, chronic over thinkers spend most of their waking time ruminating, which puts pressure on themselves. Worrying is imagining or vividly visualising possible failure. It is also creating multiple mental simulations to decide who will deal with these undesirable imaginary outcomes. In some cases, people feel so exhausted preparing for these worse case scenarios that they are left with no energy to take any action to deal with the situation at hand.

IVM podcaster & fitness Coach Urmi Kothari once asked me this question - What can you do when you can't stop overthinking?

Here are some of my hacks to deal with an over thinker’s mind -

1. No decision is a final decision:

One of my favorite parts of this decision making module is this one concept. There are no permanently wrong decisions. There are decisions & there are consequences.

Over-thinking often comes from the notion that you will make a grand finale decision that will never change and must be correct. It won’t happen. And that’s a good thing. If you could predict with complete accuracy the entirety of your future, would you want to experience it?

2. Holding a burning coal - Destructive thought patterns.

Overthinking often involves two destructive thought patterns--ruminating and incessant worrying. Ruminating involves dwelling on the past. Thoughts may include things like:

  • I shouldn't have said those things at the meeting yesterday. Everyone must think I'm an idiot.

  • I should have stayed at my last job. I would be happier than I am now.

Persistent worrying involves negative--often catastrophic--predictions about the future. Thoughts may include things like:

  1. I'm going to embarrass myself tomorrow when I give that presentation. I know I'm going to forget everything I'm supposed to say.

  2. Everyone else will get promoted before me.

Now here is my point - you might not be able to stop this loop. But then there is always that one moment where you realise that you are going on this downward spiral. Now that is the moment to reroute your map. Most people let that moment pass and then they find themselves at the end of the rabbit hole.

If you keep falling in the same trap then predicate that one thing that you are going to do the very moment you will catch yourself on your downward spiral. I remember, after a severe heartbreak, I kept catching myself in the middle of some heated mental debate with my ex. I said certain things over & over again. Things that I had never spoken in our real fights ever. It began getting to me. So here is what I did to break my own pattern with a proven grounding technique called 54321.

5. Look For 5 Things You Can See:

Notice the wood grain on the desk in front of you. Or the precise shape of your fingernails. Become aware of the glossy green of the plant in the corner. Take your time to really look and acknowledge what you see.

4. Become Aware Of 4 Things You Can Touch:

The satisfyingly rough texture of the car seat. Your cotton shirt against your neck. If you like, spend a moment literally touching these things. Maybe notice the sensation of gravity itself, or the floor beneath you.

3. Acknowledge 3 Things You Can Hear:

Don’t judge, just hear. The distant traffic. The voices in the next room. As well as the space between sounds.

2. Notice 2 Things You Can Smell:

If at first you don’t feel like you can smell anything, simply try to sense the subtle fragrance of the air around you, or of your own skin.

1. Become Aware Of 1 Thing You Can Taste:

The lingering suggestion of coffee on your tongue, maybe?

Now here is my point - you might not be able to stop this loop. But then there is always that one moment where you realise that you are going on this downward spiral. Now that is the moment to reroute your map. Most people let that moment pass and then they find themselves at the end of the rabbit hole.

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