It was a day before CA final Direct Tax exam, till evening I was preparing at my own pace, but as the clock struck 8 PM, I don't know but something started to happen, with each passing moment I was getting restless and the moment clock struck 10, I just lost control over my mind, my hands started to shiver, I couldn't eat, I couldn't read a single word thereafter, that moment I was feeling like doing anything just to escape from appearing in the exam. Exam stress is normal, but what happened to me that day was not seeming very normal.
Do you have any idea what it was that I was feeling?
That is sheer anxiety. We all have encountered anxiety at some point in time. But the question here is what gives rise to anxiety.
Many times I used to feel that I am hearing voices in my head, but I knew if I'll share this with someone they will think either I am mad or I mentally or I am making excuses to escape from studying.
But I knew, this isn't a mere excuse. So what was it, I started to read books, listen to podcasts and discovered what I am going through is "overthinking" and it's just that I don't know how to control the same.
Our mind is like a chatterbox, there is chit chat going on every time. When we are working on something and doubt in our mind rises, that single thought of doubt gives rise to 100 alike thoughts and analysis regarding all the possibilities of why that stuff won't work and we are left depressed about the situation. That's overthinking & then we overthink about overthinking. We panic about panicking and we worry about being worried. It's a loop.
Like any other addiction we hear about, it's an addiction too, we don't realize but we are addicted to overthinking. And then we proudly say "I am an overthinker". If we know we are, then why we aren't doing something to stop this. Maybe we aren't taught anywhere about the same because we don't realize it as a problem.
When you find yourself overthinking about any situation, what is to be done?
- Just watch your thoughts, when you find yourself going into that zone, calm yourself, and make a deliberate effort to just watch what you are thinking about. Ask yourself am I in this present moment, observe things around, just don't let yourself flow into excessive thinking zone, what we usually do. Many times we start to think about one event and end on something else completely unrelated to the situation for which we were actually worried about. Also many times we find ourselves sitting at a place & thinking about something totally different.
- Start practicing being present at the moment, like when you are using stairs, beware about the number of stairs. Try observing things, instead of giving impulsive judgment. When you sip water, just do that. When you are having your food just be focused on that. We have trained our minds to be distracted by doing multiple things at a time. While having food we are accustomed to either watch television or using the phone. When we will practice being in the moment, our mind will rarely get a chance to think anything unrelated on its own.
- Indulge yourself into meditation: there is a misconception about meditation, that you have to sit for hours and clear your mind, and so on. But it's just that- sit at a place and let your thoughts flow, try not to suppress your thoughts, just watch them and be conscious. Slowly and steadily you will find a stillness and calm within.
- Stop worrying about how things will work: Think of a car driving through the night. The headlights only go a hundred to two hundred feet forward, and you can make it all the way from one place to another driving through the dark, because all you have to see the next two hundred feet. And that's how life tends to unfold before us. If we just trust that next two hundred feet will unfold after that and next after that, your life will keep unfolding and it will eventually get you to the destination of whatever it is.
Now I know, my words might be sounding unfamiliar to you. But I am hoping atleast you'll consider the perspective I am trying to make right now that you can do something about your overthinking, give it a try.
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To continue my exam day anxiety incident, let me share something, I scored 55 in that exam and manage to clear that group in that same attempt. This directs me through one more learning that 95% of the problems or issues or fears that we give rise through indulging ourselves into excessive thinking never happens in reality, they just stay in our mind.
Study well and Don't Overthink!