I’ve already alluded to the fact that my A level years and first year of university were harder than they should have been and a lot of this was due to my obsessive thinking. It would have been okay if I had been obsessing over my subjects, in fact I used to joke that if I thought as much about chemistry as I did irrational things I would have a flipping Nobel Prize by now haha! But unfortunately I couldn’t make this mental shift and my brain stayed focussed on the stupid, irrational thoughts rather than anything useful.
It got to the point were I was seeing my advisor at university about deferring a year as I just couldn’t concentrate on my work at all and could only manage to do practical things like doing the laundry as this didn’t require much brain power so I could do it with the hoard of thoughts still present. It was exhausting and frustrating having to deal with this constantly full inbox in my head.
Thankfully though, I was blessed with the best circle of support you could ask for which kept me going until the clouds finally passed. A key member of this support network was my Mum’s best friend from their school days. She has struggled far worse than I ever did with her mental health and so she just really got it. Today I’m going to share with you the one of the many pieces of advice she gave me that really helped to free me from my head.
Often I would sit down to try and complete some coursework or make some lecture notes but would end up throwing in the towel shortly after starting as I just could not focus. It was like in school when you had to sit beside someone who was intent on distracting you from your work.
But she told me to not give up with these tasks as even if they took me twice as long as normal and weren’t up to my usual standards, it was still progress! It was still 10x better than not doing anything, even be that just scribbling some words down from the lecture slides, you’re still taking far more in than if you didn’t do anything.
So I tried this and lo and behold, I immediately felt so much better about myself and so much more in control. Yes, my progress was slow but the point was that I was still doing something, despite having the thoughts yapping away beside me and trying to steal my pen. It showed me that I could still make some progress which stopped me from getting into a panic when the thoughts started getting loud.
This loss of fear of my thoughts has improved my life so much as now I know that I can do anything, even physical chemistry (which uses a tonne of my brainpower!) so I no longer panic whenever Mr. Thought chooses to take the seat next to me in a lecture or in the library as I know that he doesn’t stop anymore. I feel bigger than him and hence he seems a lot smaller.
I recently came across a quote on Instagram that said, “you don’t need to learn to control your thoughts, you just need to not let them control you,” and I think this really sums it up.
And remember that just like you were told by an adult when someone was annoying you, “Ignore them, and eventually they’ll get bored and leave you alone. Giving them attention just encourages them.” This same tactic can be used for annoying thoughts as it is can for annoying people. Don’t talk to your thoughts. By this I mean don’t even try to get rid of them by “solving them”. I would always try to solve my thoughts in an attempt to get rid of them but you can’t solve something that is irrational. So I just ended up dwelling on the thought so much that it just grew and grew. I finally realised that I never actually got anywhere by doing this and so now I just accept that they’re there but I don’t look at them or interact with them and so they eventually fade away.
Please don’t give up if you feel like you’re constantly battling with your thoughts, they can’t stop you, you’re so much bigger than they are.