Analysis paralysis. It’s a funny phrase. Almost sounds like a joke, right? Well I thought so too when my friend first introduced me to the concept. I was going through a situation and was overthinking and stressing over it. She sent me a link to the Wikipedia page for analysis paralysis, and instantly I recognised everything that was being described in the first paragraph. Finally I was able to put a name to what exactly I was feeling. So, what exactly is analysis paralysis? The definition is that it is “the state of over-analysing (or overthinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralysing the outcome.” This was me – in a situation where it was consuming all my thoughts and I couldn’t take any action towards it.
We are all guilty of reading into things a little too much now and again. However, overthinking can be harmful as it can create problems that aren’t there to begin with. As millennials we are faced more than ever with tough decisions to make about out futures whilst simultaneously being bombarded with the many options available to us. With the expectations put on us by society, family, friends and even ourselves, life can get overwhelming and we can lose focus. We are growing up in a more connected world than ever with the rise of technology and social media, but coincidentally becoming increasingly disengaged and isolated from one another. These phenomenons have us obsessing over every “like”, “comment” and “share” a post gets, causing stress over things that actually aren’t worth it in the grand scheme of things. With my own experience of analysis paralysis, I initially ruled it out to just being an extension of my “drama queen” nature. However, with further exploration and discussion with those close to me, I’ve realised that this feeling is legitimate and that it’s all about finding ways to avoid and overcome it when you find yourself in that situation.
When overthinking, it tends to be that what you’re actually stressing about is not the problem. In fact it’s the sheer amount of over-analysing we’re doing over the problem that is the issue. Why not try and make a conscious decision to limit your time spent overthinking? Then let it go and be free. Easier said than done, I know. But you’ll find this state you’re in interfering with what your heart says you should do and could end up feeling stuck and taking no action. Avoid sharing the problem with others too. I’ve found it only adds to the stress as you discuss it further and factor in others opinions and thoughts when really your decision or resolution for the problem is all down to you.
Now for some more practical tips. As a writer, writing is therapeutic for me so I tend to write it all out. Writing out how you’re feeling on a blank page can help you visualise and dissect what you’re really thinking much more easily. You don’t have to be a fantastic writer, just grab a pen and paper and write, or even draw it all out. You’ll find that releasing your emotions onto paper will free your mind of your thoughts and bring you some relief. If you’re not up for this, how about a change of environment? You don’t have to pack your bags up for some fancy trip, but just get out of your usual surroundings. Maybe, like myself, you absolutely love to stay at home in your room and could do that all day without having to talk to anyone else. Well get out the front door, get some fresh air and allow yourself to enjoy yourself and relax in a different setting.
Refocusing your mind on a hobby or project can also help relieve some of that pressure. With your mind preoccupied and concentrating on something else, you’ll end up distracted and your attention will be elsewhere. Disconnecting from the outside world can also be beneficial. I don’t mean you should suddenly ghost but try going offline. Every now and again if I need to declutter my mind, I’ll delete social media apps off my phone for a few days. There’s so much negativity online that sometimes I just need a break. There’s also the assumption that everyone’s living their best life with what they choose to showcase online. Sometimes it’s just good to get away from it all for a little while.
Ultimately, you have to accept uncertainty as a part of life. It’s incredibly frustrating and we all want to see quick results. However overthinking and stressing to the point that you don’t do anything about it isn’t going to help you. Make sure to keep yourself occupied and keep your mind off things that don’t help you. Be optimistic. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll take it from the famous poet Rumi, who once said, “Put your thoughts to sleep. Do not let them cast a shadow over the moon of your heart. Let go of thinking.”
Written by Aisha Rimi