“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” ~Proverb
Introverts love introspection and reflection. They are thinkers. Deep thinkers. This is one of the greatest advantages of being an introvert. It helps us to excel in careers that require concentration, while also facilitating growth and wisdom. It does, however, have one undesirable side effect: worry.
It is all too easy for negative thoughts and concerns to flood an introvert’s ever-buzzing brain. We begin to over-think, analyze and even obsess. Before we know it, our mind becomes a typhoon of swirling thoughts that threaten to flatten us into the ground.
Sometimes I catch myself having entire conversations in my head with people I’ve barely said two words to in real life. This can be fun if the conversation is pleasant. But often, it is simply my brain’s way of playing out possible negative outcomes.
A couple of months ago, I worried that I had deeply offended a friend of mine by showing up a bit late for a date. She seemed annoyed and frustrated. For nearly a week, I imagined conversations with her in which I defended my absent-mindedness against her lecturing. Later, when I brought it up with her, and apologized for offending her, she admitted that she hadn’t been upset with me. She had simply been having a bad day.
The above interaction, and others like it, made me realize the fruitlessness of worry. Having imaginary arguments and focusing on worst-case scenarios is a waste of energy. And as we all know, an introvert’s energy is a precious commodity.
If kept in check, worrying can lead to better planning and prevention of possible problems. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to reign in their worries and focus on solutions. They get stuck focusing all of their thoughts on the problem.
Fortunately, there are several easy ways that introverts can stop worrying and find inner peace.
Be solutions focused
There is a BIG difference between focusing on a problem vs. working on a solution. Instead of worrying ourselves into a twitching bundle of discontent, we should think about what we can do/think/feel right now to improve the situation.
Master the art of distraction
If we can’t find a solution, the next best thing to do is distract ourselves. The art of distraction works wonders on nearly every ailment of the mind: jealousy, self-loathing, relationship problems and guilt.
The key is to distract yoursef with thoughts or activities that make you feel good. Think about people you love, things that make you laugh, or kind words that have been spoken to you.
Use one of the best mood-boosters
Listening to good music is one of the most powerful ways that we can alter our thoughts and feelings. The right tunes can instantly replace worry with more constructive, happy thoughts. A great place to start is with Pharrell Williams’ smash hit “Happy”.
If you want something more mellow, I’m a huge fan of Eric Whitacre’s choral (only voices) music. Click here to listen to one of my favorites.
I know you’ve heard it before, and you’ll probably hear it a hundred times more – meditation really works. REALLY! Meditation is by far the most effective thing I’ve ever done to improve my mental health. It literally blocks negative thoughts from entering your mind. Start out with just five minutes a day and find out what everyone’s talking about.
If there are any other introverts out there who over-think or have imaginary arguments, I’d love to hear from you.
Is there any advice that I missed that has helped you put an end to worry and find inner peace?
Ugh, yes to the whole over-thinking things bit. I do that constantly. I’m always thinking I offended someone & I beat myself up, then I talk to the person & find out there was never a problem. Lol.
Glad to know I’m not the only one. It’s so funny how we can be totally wrong about what another person is thinking/feeling.
In my professional life I try to turn worrying into a productivity tool, with varying degrees of success. I think that the old saying that you need to “visualize success” to be successful is more of an extroverted ideal. The introverted mind will play out dozens of ways that something could go wrong before we can become confident that something will go right, and this can be a tremendous source of stress but also an amazing gift. This forms part of my mental preparation routine before I teach a class, especially in the last couple of days leading up to it.
If I need a break to lighten my mood, one of my favorite distractions is Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks skit.. strange I know but it works every time 🙂
You make some great points, Philip. Thinking of what can go wrong definitely helps with preparation. And thanks for sharing your favorite distraction. It doesn’t sound strange – it sounds awesome! I’ll have to watch it sometime.
Over-thinking, replaying dialogues and imagining new dialogues… I always justified this by thinking I was trying to come up with a solution so that I’d have a better outcome with the next similar scenario… I end up on this endless, stressful loop and feeling more agitated, so it’s hardly coming up with a solution. Trying to form a habit of letting go of these worrying thoughts. Takes lots of practice and discipline.
You’re right, Diane, it does take practice. But once you’re aware of it, it’s much easier to make positive changes. I sent out a free email course on how to stop negative thought loops and master the mind a couple of months ago. If you’d like, I can send it to you.
I know I’m stumbling across this blog two years after the fact, but I would love to get a copy if that email. Everything you’ve written is something o have been struggling a lot with lately. I’m the embodiment of Rachel Patten’s “Fight Song”… “All those things I didn’t say / the wrecking balls inside my brain” and it’s making me crazy!! I’ve started meditation, but I still need a lot of work. Thanks for writing this piece!
I just saw this site a few days ago.
Can I please get that email course too? I also struggle with this problem.
Hi Dipayan, unfortunately that email course is no longer available. But if you join my mailing list, I send many other similar resources: https://introvertspring.com/introvert-charisma-blueprint/
As long as I can remember I have had these imaginary conversations. I always wish I would’a, could’a, should’a said or done something different. It is torture and I keep myself awake many nights while this dialog runs circles in my head. For me I believe the root is in my feelings of inferiority and my non-agressive nature. I so appreciate your thoughts on this subject. It is very helpful to give this a voice and see the strategies for dealing with the voice in my head. Thanks, Michaela.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Kris. You’re probably right that the root is from feelings of inferiority. Perhaps you’re like me, in that you always think you are the one who has done something wrong. You don’t give yourself enough credit. We’re all just out here doing our best. 🙂
Lovely written. Do feel like some of these thoughts and insecurities are also things extroverts, like myself struggle with. It’s very recognizable for me.
Thanks Sora. Absolutely, we are all unique and have our own strengths and struggles, so I’m sure plenty of extroverts have felt this way, too. 🙂
I do that all the time, have entire imaginary conversations with people I hardly know. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who does that.
Yes! You’re not the only one. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Wouter.
I did once tell someone I imagined/prepared entire conversations and they got mad at me for doing that. I still haven’t figured out why.
Nicely done. I’ve definitely been one of those who have had imaginary conversations with people in my head. They’re sort of like “practice simulations”, if that makes sense. I’ve found the best way to stay positive is to start the day out positively. If you wake up in a bad mood, chances are I tend to stay in a bad mood and am more likely to engage in these negative simulations.
That’s great advice. 🙂
You have no idea how happy I am to have read this. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, mostly because of a person I’ve fallen for. I’ve imagined so many different scenarios lately between us it’s probably why grey hairs are starting to sprout from my head! What’s really gotten me worked up lately is how we’ve seemed to have gone from working on a lovely friendship to her barely saying two words to me. Sadly we have to work together so it makes things a bit more complicated. I’ve run so many scenarios through my head as to what I may have done or said that it’s eatting me up. Thank you for this blog. I think I’ve found my new favorite website! 🙂
I’m so happy to have read this.i do this all the time and I’m tired of it.Thanks for the adivce.
You’re most welcome, Mimi. 🙂
Thank you, Michaela, for your blog. I feel sometimes that I’m my worst enemy. Your blog help me to understand and to accept myself. You are an inspiration, thank you!
Thanks for posting this great piece. These imaginary scenarios can be very tiring. When they appear I immediately try to convince myself that my thoughts rarely come true. At the same time I re call examples where my fictional worst case scenarios were proven wrong. I agree about music – vital point. I listen to “brand new me” by Alicia Keys. Somehow her voice facilitate stoicism in some way. This song also remind me that it is ok to be introvert.
Thanks for the link to Eric Whitacre. I had not heard of him or heard his music. Lovely.
I agree wholeheartedly on meditation. It has made such a great difference in my life.
You’re welcome! I love his music so much.
Really great article. A good base for practising satisfying life though being an introvert. Now I realise that being introvert rather than a sin is an asset for succeeding. I have known that usually introverts are successful and talented people rather than extroverts who are usually left to where they belong or they are of nowhere. Thanks to the writer for making me a proud and valuable person thinking myself as introverted though satisfied human acting upon circumstances through my instinct rather than force or artificial retenless pressure upon myself.
Yes, develop a faith in God or the universe or nature or whatever, that works for you. Each person can understand this differently but try and find a way to believe in something greater out there that is ultimately in charge. Spirituality in a nutshell!
Absolutely! I agree. Spirituality of some kind offers so much inner peace! 🙂
Emails 2 of 3 and 3 of 3, spot on, thank you!
I often find myself having conversations in my head that I wish I could have with family or people who are important to me but I can’t because they don’t see the benefit in the conversation although I really need it or they just aren’t ready for that conversation yet. Although it can be a very emotional process I find that it somewhat diminishes the need for the conversation a little. I definitely struggle with over thinking and often think someone is upset with me when they are not due to the “vibes” they are expressing which often relate to something I am unaware of! Being that I am also unwell I can’t just go and take photos like I used to to feel better so I find I distract myself with work (creating graphics can be quite relaxing I find) and watching TV shows just takes me to another world & gives my mind a chance to wind down & slow down all the thoughts zooming around in my head!
Prayer is one of the best things I do to stop worrying and walk in faith. I have a growing vertical relationship with Jesus. He is my rock. Sometimes I get answers to my prayers through asking, waiting on Him, and being quiet and humble enough to receive.
He often speaks to me through the complexities and combinations in the natural world. For instance, He gave me a revelation, years ago, from a flower garden I had just planted, at dusk. It is around a well in our front yard. It was about my humility, my obedience, and my being a light in a darkening world. It was using two types of flowers and the well, itself, to speak to me about how important to God one individual’s life can be: (mine and others). I can, with God’s help, heal people, families, and communities. Also, what I receive from natural world revelations from Him, always line up with the Word of God.
Recently, I asked what He wanted of me. I am going through some midlife changes and wanted from Him some idea of next step(s). Last week, during a time of eating food in my car at a local park, He directed my attention to a natural formation very high up in a tree. It was a large elongated heart. I then felt His great love for me and felt Him say that’s what He wanted me to do. Love others. Love others, through His capacity to love, working through me.
Experimenting with Christian hospitality now. Just one or two people in addition to our family. It has been interesting, in the past twenty years, being led to His next adventure for me. Adventures in loving others, and feeling His love for me.
Thank you for sharing this! I, too, look for for messages from the Divine and often find them in nature. 🙂
Thank you for your message. I am also Christian and I just realized again that nothing helps the way God helps. I was very caught by personality types in the last few days and kind of broght me into hoplessness… after studying a lot, believing , and after realising that it can’t be exactly like this. For example, being an introvet who cares for people I would always say I choose circumstance over cold ration, also intuition, but I have always been a thinker and I just do not think I do not use other functions as primary too… Can you be contacted somehow?
First let me thank you for this article. I found some helpful points.
I am so good at having these arguments in my head that sometimes it feels like I really had them! I can create some pretty deep conversations without ever being in the other person’s presence.
I also want to thank Michaela for her articles.
Ironically I think people that don’t suffer from these same levels of worry are right, we should just stop thinking about whatever person, place or thing we are concerned about… as mentioned this is easier said than done for some of us. When I first became aware that this was a problem, I laughably became hyper aware of it and realized I was worrying about being worried all the time. Ha! So what to do? I have learned that at the root of all this is fear and selfishness- Fear that I will lose something that I already have or won’t get the result I am seeking; selfishness in the sense that I am trying to control the results so my fears will not realized. In order to overcome this I have learned that I do need to devote some quality time reviewing the problem and realize that I have a tendency to fall into this trap, it isn’t productive when over done and ultimately can take good ideas and turn them into crap. Once I have a plan or solution in place I make an agreement with myself to do whatever I need to do to stop thinking about the problem but to focus On something else…. not necessarily the solution either as sometimes I don’t yet know what that picture looks like. This is very hard and requires conscious effort as I have come to realize that I am somewhat addicted to worry. I ‘like’ as strange as it sounds and feel strongly compelled to worry and ultimately be miserable. Anyways with the methods described above I have been able to more intuitively arrive at creative solutions.
Finally if fear and selfishness are the root of the issue then it makes sense, though I resist it, to try to think about how I can help someone else. This is another way to stop thinking about the problem and low and behold,again, the problems take care of themselves… reminding me that 99% of the time the worst things that happened never actually happened…I have also had very modest success in life leveraging these approaches from engineering, project management, writing, and most recently surviving terminal stage cancer. If that six weeks to live diagnosis almost 5 years ago I am not sure what else would (-;
It’s nice to see that others go through the same thing like me. I did not know anything about these personality traits till my education course teacher asked us to take a personality test. At first I did not believe but when I went through the descriptions is like someone was describing me. The issue of inner arguments, I experience it a lot. I still haven’t yet figured out how to handle it. However am happy for one thing to meet other people who are a bit the same like me.
Hi Michaela, thanks for the article. I can totally relate to the imaginary conversations habit. I’ve used up so much mental and emotional energy preparing for confrontations that never happened!