COVID-19 has been hard on almost all of us. It has made us realize ourselves in different ways, in both good and bad ways. Many of us had plans of how 2020 would unfold, some of us have had plans ahead to take us through 2020. For some, weekend getaways with family and friends, for others, parents’ anniversary getaways, conferences, starting a business, having a dream wedding, reaching for that milestone. 2020 is a year that has just revealed to us that what God says is true; in Proverbs 19;21, the Bible writes that ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ We all have planned, but only Gods’ purpose will always surpass. For most people, this has not been an easy year, but with everything, our minds have been working against us and not for us.
A definition from one psychologist (Dr. Jeffrey Huttman) of overthinking is that; ‘Overthinking is the process of constantly analyzing and anguishing over one’s thoughts. It may include rumination, in which an individual is stuck mentally rehashing their past or present decisions and/or actions.’ With a lot of plans on hold, with a lot relationships at risk, with a lot of self-discovery and growth, people’s minds have resorted to overthinking. At night people do not rest but have the 2am, 3am thoughts which end up to no sleep at all. Well, over thinking unhealthy, for everyone, no exclusion. Being a critical, analytical and inquisitive person is very rare and good character/skill to possess but when overdone, it can lead to negative mental health.
It is very important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy thinking, Overthinking is an unproductive process where one over analyzes everything, over questioning and over analytical measures one may take. On the other hand normal thinking is a skill that one may have, normal rational thinking. There are multiple causes of overthinking, one may be anxiety which is often a result of fear, fear of what may come. For most of us, this year has not unfolded in any way close to what we wanted it to be. There are a number of things that have been ‘threatened’ by the pandemic; illness, uncertainty, financial distress, death are just a few of those that may pose as a threat to our survival hence the need to resort to ‘fight flight’ response to alert us of the dangers that may come; which then leads us overthinking. Another common cause is trauma, neuroscience tells us that trauma can cause our brains to be stuck in a ‘high vigilance’ mode to be alert for possible danger, whether real or perceived.
Now we have a little understanding of what overthinking is and what can cause it, what has really happened to us in 2020 and how can we overcome the sleepless nights and awkward stares to the wall or to nothing really? Do you find yourself wide awake at twelve midnight thinking about what happened to you with a certain individual and make a conversation out of the scenario by yourself? Finding yourself asking (all night), ‘why me? Why has this happened to me? What have I done wrong? Blaming yourself, or even making conclusions for the other party involved? I have been through this, a couple of times, constantly asking myself, ‘what if’, for the whole night making an analysis of events, concluding and giving myself assurance that it is the right way of doing things until I realized it did not happen for just one night but consecutive nights, that is when I realized it is a problem.
I listen a lot when people talk to me, maybe because I constantly want to learn and I remember what changed my life was one gentleman in 2017 who was conversing with me and said something I found profound, he said ; ‘ well, Nthabi, I never worry about things I cannot control, otherwise they will control me’. Moreover, a few months after I have a conversation with that particular gentleman, I read a scripture in Proverbs 3:24, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” I then realized that God has our back at all times, asleep or awake, our sleep is supposed to be peaceful and sweet. If overthinking took away my sleep and made me anxious and afraid then surely it was not from the Lord. If for every night I lay on my bed I had to worry about things I could not control instead of presenting them to God, then I would not rest and have peace.
“So, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)
What do we do to make our minds at ease? Firstly, we should remember whose we are, we should pray and read the word, 3 a.m., you are awake, just talk to God about it, pray and ask for help. Philippians 4;6; ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ Be sure to practice mindfulness; this is the cognitive awareness of all that is happening and allowing yourself to recognize the surroundings and your thoughts without any judgement. Always practice relaxation techniques, go for a jog, do yoga, breathing exercises, these can decrease anxiety and has been scientifically proven, yoga helps to reduce the secretion of cortisol which causes anxiety and PTSD, moreover it increases melatonin a hormone that regulates sleep.
Sometimes changing our focus helps, reading or focusing on our hobbies in times of overthinking, Proverbs 23;7 says; ‘as a man thinketh, so is he’. Focusing too much on things that one may not change can actually change you into someone who is very bitter and critical of every step, a person who is always unhappy or easily irritated. Another way to help is to journal down our thoughts, this reduces stress, anxiety and increases perceived resilience. Self-accountability is also very crucial, we are not always right, we cannot always control everything and we have to acknowledge that. This leads to self-reflection on our believes and thoughts, do we impose our beliefs to other people? Do we expect the world to understand us?
We have to understand that this year too shall pass, it is not the end and God loves us more than we can imagine. Keep working on yourself. Sow those seeds, one day they will germinate, keep watering those plants, in due time they will blossom. We should not give up due to our circumstances but we should have faith that because of the circumstances we shall overcome. James 1:2; Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him’ The coming years will be better, 2020 has to be a year of reflections, molding and lessons and our minds should not get in the way of that, overthinking is not good for our health and we should recognize that.
Love Nthabz xxx