Of course, over-thinking does happen.
Like, what’s for breakfast?
We have some leftover sausages, but I’ve planned pork for dinner.
Okay, so no bacon, either.
Or baked beans, cheese, and bread, because dinner is meat-and-beans in tortillas, with cheese, and nobody needs four serves of pork, beans, or cheese, in one day. (Portion math for teens, y’all.)
Okay. Given that dinner veg includes pulses and capsicum, ideally breakfast should include other veggies to get our five-a-day. Maybe fried rice, with broccoli, carrot, and green beans? And egg, for protein?
Wait. What options does that leave me for lunch?
I can go on like this for half an hour or more, making useless, dithery movements around the kitchen, before I finally figure out peanut-butter-and-banana toast, ticking boxes for filling, protein, and potassium, while squashing down the anxiety about giving them gluten at breakfast and dinner and lunch.
This is overthinking.
I can tell it’s overthinking, rather than analysis paralysis, because it doesn’t matter.
(Hush, you and your ‘does anything really matter?’ Trying to function, here!)
Getting the right fridge, mattered. Choosing badly would have annoyed us all (mostly me, it must be said), countless times a day, for many years, and could well have cost us hundreds in higher power bills and/or premature replacement.
Getting the right breakfast, doesn’t. Yes, I’m obliged to balance our diet, but that doesn’t mean getting every meal right, or even every day. My kids eat pretty widely, thankfully, and even more thankfully, we can buy a wide range of healthy foods. Over the course of the week, it evens out.
That’s why today’s breakfast doesn’t matter. Like it doesn’t matter whether I stop at the shop near me (nightmare carpark, busy store, preferred bread) or the one near Mum (better carpark, smaller store, ‘wrong’ bread), whether that idiot on news.com thought he’d won the argument when I went to cook dinner (AARGH), whether hubby buys the expensive carrots, or whether a teabag went into the bin rather than the compost.
Fretting about the insignificant stuff is really just anxiety that I’m not performing at a sufficiently high level, a hangover from an achievement-oriented upbringing. I know mindfulness and meditation can hush that mental noise. I’ve always sucked at them, though, and these days I’ve abandoned that fight. It’s just a losing battle against an old, unhelpful habit, that is far, far louder, when I’m already carrying a load.
That is, overthinking breakfast happens when I’ve lain awake in the night and have nine thousand things to do while feeling like something scraped off the chook-house floor. Or when I forget to take some meds. Maybe I have a big, real problem to solve, and some of the necessary neural revs are spilling over into the unnecessary stuff. Maybe I’ve eaten too much gluten lately. (I seem to be the only one who feels it.) Let any one of those go on for more than a day or so, and I’m heading for an anxiety spike that will have me overthinking everyfuckingthing.
So I don’t see the overthinking as the problem. It’s just a big red flag telling me I’ve goofed. I let it be there, try not to let it stop me functioning, and put my energy into fixing the goof, stat, because it’s almost always a small, physical fix: sleep, regular meds, diet, exercise. Fix that and I can go back to enjoying the racket in my head. After all, that’s the source of my power.
Biology before psychology. Always.