Donít overthink it
Ann Q. Peters
You know how sometimes you canít remember something, like a name, even though you know exactly who the person is or what the thing is? This happens to me a lot when Iím working crossword puzzles. I know that I know the answer, but just canít remember the name. Itís frustrating. And it makes me worry that Iím starting to lose it. I used to have such a great memory that it was embarrassing. Iíd see someone I met once years before and remember where we were and what we talked about, and if they didnít remember me it was Ö kind of awkward. But now, Iím that person. I smile and nod my head and say, ďOh, yeah, itís coming back to me ...Ē
The answer almost always comes to me later, which is good for a crossword puzzle, but not so good when the person you were talking to is gone.
I read about this phenomenon of trying to retrieve something from memory. The information is stored in your brain, but the pathways to it are convoluted. What you need to do is stop thinking about it. Do something else. Focus on another problem, or take a walk, or go to bed. While youíre disengaged, the brain is busy figuring out where the info is and finding a way to retrieve it, and then, suddenly, you remember!
There are other times where disengaging from the problem can be helpful. Ever get an angry email? Or an email that made you angry? Your first instinct is to fire off a scathing reply. But the better course of action is to walk away. At least for me, thatís the best course of action. I seem to have a 24-hour limit on being upset. Generally, after that, I can shrug off just about anything. Then when Iím totally calm and collected, Iíll send a neutral response, or even a really nice one. This is a good strategy for two reasons. One, people who send angry emails expect a response right away, and silence confuses them. And two, being nice is the last thing they expect, and confuses them even more. Usually they will write me back and apologize for being rude. The next thing you know, weíre using exclamation points and smiley face emojis.
There are so many times when overthinking is a bad idea. Ordering food in a restaurant. Letís see, I want salmon, but I already had fish this week. Steak looks yummy, but I need to avoid red meat. Pasta? Too many carbs. Chicken? Boring. You ask the waiter to take your order last and end up ordering the salmon.
Getting dressed in the morning is another area that can be fraught with indecision. I used to try on so many different outfits that my closet looked like a bomb went off in it. My strategy for that is ďthe uniform,Ē solid-color shirt and solid-color pants. Or wear the same outfit you wore the day before. If it looked OK then, it will look OK now, and no one will even notice. No more overthinking for me.
So go take that walk, or nap, or binge-watch something, anything to keep from actually thinking. Problem solved!