Woes of Adolescent Life – Overthinking, Mental Stress and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
The capacity of the human brain is what distinguishes mankind from other living beings. It endows us with an awareness of our own thought processes, i.e. consciousness. Our consciousness allows us to mull over our thoughts, relive past events and cross question ourselves. Sometimes this results in a paralysis of our analytic ability; this is known as the “over thinking” phenomenon. (Stewart, 2015).
There are certain factors that set overthinking in motion. They can take the form of a stressful event, something you believe needs fixing, a desire to be in control, uncertainty or a negative emotion (Stewart, 2015). Following are three major components of over thinking in adolescents.
Explicit versus Implicit memory
Explicit memory is where we actively recall information and consciously use sensory processes to perform tasks, whereas implicit memory refers to relying unconsciously on previous experiences to perform tasks. (Lerner, 2015)
Taraz Lee, a postdoctoral scholar, along with his colleagues performed a test using kaleidoscopic images of prefrontal cortex, at six o’clock, to find out the attention control processes. (Cohen, 2013) At this time, the richer connections developed in the frontal lobe of our brain, reinforce cognitive function. The central idea of this experiment can be understood by a practical example of quickly shuffling down a flight of stairs, something we do every day without any thought. But if one asks us to count the number of times we bend our knee or note which part of foot touches the stair, we would fall on our face.
All thoughts, memories and emotions stored in our brain are woven together in networks of connections. The complexity of this web of associations not only increases our capacity to think, but it also makes us susceptible to over thinking. (Lafata, 2014), (Cohen, 2013)
Another trigger of overthinking is the influence of social media under the shadow of which every teenager lives today. On average, users between the ages of 15 to 19 spend at least 3 hours a day on social media.
Excessive influence of social media leaves us vulnerable to developing narcissistic tendencies, especially among the age group of 15 to 19 years. (Kolodeziej, 2015) During the period of adolescence, individuals are under a lot of peer pressure; may it be anxiety, because we are constantly worrying about posting the perfect picture, taking way too much time figuring out what to tweet, mulling over why someone just removed us on Instagram, or thinking over what would happen in the next episode of a specific drama serial.
One thing that gradually changes is that we make social media alive in the real world. Once we develop interest into different activities or surfing we do daily, paralysis of analysis is the consequence leading to this sense of curiosity in children to deviate from natural circumstances. One may say it is this alternate reality of the social media world that triggers over thinking. (Lafata, 2014)
Stressors of life
Under this category of triggers for over thinking, many of the issues one faces daily can be heaped. For example, an individual may be experiencing financial instability due to unemployment; or be living amidst political crises and insecurity; or simply be overburdened by responsibility of work and study together.
This age along with the pains of self-consciousness, also deepens one’s view of personal relationships. Adolescents face challenges while forming meaningful relationships, building an identity and exploring new avenues, and may eventually stress out. In some, this might impart valuable coping skills, but for some a maladaptive response and unhealthy lifestyle can be the result of mental stress.
Now this creates a tennis match in the mind of a teen to explore with the world or follow the values they have been brought up with. They are not able to come to conclusions this way and so are prone to health problems like anorexia or insomnia. So, what is the fact hidden behind bodily functions being affected? It’s again their behavior of over thinking rather than sorting out things in an organized manner by discussing with someone trustworthy, accepting what is done, or approach of learning something new in life.
Dr. Barry Schwartz wrote in his book “The Paradox of Choice” (2004), that it is important for people to know that they have free will to choose when making all life decisions. Throughout our lives we are constantly learning new perspectives and ideas on which we base our actions, hence over thinking appears to be inevitable.
We should begin with setting a timer for our thoughts so that they can be controlled and do not interfere later on. Healthy distractions can be a good option here, in the form of exercise, music and so on. Moreover, we can discuss or share, go for counseling if required, give a break, write down everything bothering and remind ourselves of the bigger picture.
Ruminating over trivial issues longer than warranted affects our health and may lead to depression or social isolation despite having relations around. Lastly, one can meditate – which is the practice of “not thinking” and promote “focused thinking”. It is indeed a powerful way to assume control of an unruly mind.(Gottberg, 2012) (Stewart, 2010)
We wake up every day to new personal or social challenges, explore the happenings of the world outside. Hence, where life has locks of challenges, there are keys of every shape available for solutions. We need to find the appropriate one among many.
Cohen, J. (2013). Over thinking can be detrimental to human performance. The UC Santa Barbara Current. Retrieved from http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2013/013593/overthinking-can-be-detrimental-human-performance
Gottberg, K. (2012). Is Your Over-Thinking An Addiction? —Here Are Eight Steps To Recovery. Smart Living 365. Retrieved from http://smartliving365.com/is-your-over-thinking-an-addiction-here-are-eight-steps-to-recovery/
Kolodziej, A. (2015). Exploring Social Media’s Impact on Human Psychology. AllPsych Blog. Retrieved fromhttp://blog.allpsych.com/exploring-social-medias-impact-on-human-psychology/
LaFata, A. (2014). Over thinking is killing you: Science confirms you need to get out of your head. Elite Daily, Science says.
Lerner, E. (2015). An over thinking brain can complicate simple tasks. Penn Current. Retrieved fromhttp://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/current/2015-04-09/latest-news/overthinking-brain-can-complicate-simple-tasks
Stewart, L. (2015). The Paralysis of Analysis: Stop Over thinking everything. Colorado Health Partnerships.
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