I am the worlds biggest over thinker.
Last night, for example, while letting my dog out before bed, she ran away. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon thing. We live in the middle of the woods and typically, within fifteen minutes she's scratching at the front door, begging to get back inside.
When this happens, my mom gets really upset, puts her boots on, grabs a flashlight, and goes out looking for that silly dog.
This doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but in my head, my thoughts quickly began spiraling out of control.
"Great, now my mom is mad at me."
"I can never do anything right. How hard is it to let the dog out without losing her?"
"I better go downstairs and close my door so I don't get yelled at."
"This only happens when you let her out, Kels."
"What is wrong with you?"
"Now my mom doesn't trust me and she thinks I'm lazy."
"Lazy people are weak."
"If I'm weak, I am flawed."
"My mom must be so ashamed of me."
"I'm just not good enough for anything or anyone."
Sounds harsh, right? Sadly, that's how my brain works. It doesn't work like this all the time, thank goodness, and it has gotten better since I began recovery, but these thought patterns still linger. Something as simple as letting the dog out quickly turns into a full blown, over-thought-out mess. No matter what happens during my day, there is a pretty good chance I can over think any situation into an "I'm not good enough" thought.
Over the past few months, thankfully, I have learned that there are a few different things I can do to break this self destructive thinking cycle and help regain my sanity.
1. Take Action- Instead of running down to my room and sulking in my thoughts, I could have taken action by asking my mom if there was anything I could have done to help. Or maybe even asking her flat out if she was upset with me; instantly proving me right or wrong, putting an end to my assumptions.
2. Challenge my irrational beliefs- I am not weak because my dog ran away. That just sounds silly. If I can challenge that thought, then maybe I can stop the rest of the downward spiral.
3. Redirect my attention- Again, instead of hiding out in my room, I could have done something to distract my mind. Simply turning on the TV would be a mindless way to distract my brain for the time being.
4. Mindfulness- One technique a past therapist of mine always recommended was, imagining those negative thoughts as leaves floating down a stream. Allow myself to feel that emotion, but then let it pass me by. My thoughts can't hurt me and they will pass.
5. Patience- Like everything in recovery, changing these thought processes does take time. Trying to be gentle with myself when these thoughts do come up is a huge step in the right direction.
Most importantly, I need to find a way to stop beating myself up for beating myself up. Right now in recovery, I am pretty good at knowing, logically, the difference between healthy and unhealthy thoughts. It just becomes more difficult to act on the healthy thoughts when I begin snowballing unhealthy thoughts like this.
The human brain is one of the most fascinating and complex things in existence. Learning to change thought patterns that have been ingrained over the course of a lifetime, is downright frustrating and it would be so much easier to give up. I have made way to much progress, however, to throw in the towel now.
I am an over thinker and probably always will be, but thankfully, there are ways to help myself overcome these battles in my head.