But what do you mean, "it's just a plate of beans"??
February 7, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe

When overthinking is overrated: please show me your anti-beanplating hacks!

Beanplating can be tremendously good fun...until you get stuck in a nasty infinite loop that is. This has been happening to me quite a lot lately, and I need coping strategies besides the old standby of hissing "STOP" whenever appropriate. What are some simple mental (or otherwise) exercises I can do to help snap out of these episodes?
posted by fix to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've always found that wearing a rubber band around your wrist and giving it a good snap when you're on a feedback loop really helps you break free. Man, that smarts.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:10 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I often snarl "Fuggeddaboudit".
Which sends me off into distracting snippets from Casino, Goodfellas, Cake Boss and Mickey Blue Eyes.
posted by likeso at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2012

Best answer: There's an old tale that I remember whenever I'm overthinking something or having trouble making a decision. It's an undoubtedly apocryphal story attributed to various famous film directors of the 40's and 50's. I first heard it attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, so that's how I'll tell it. It goes something like this:
Alfred Hitchcock is on the set of his latest film and being interviewed by a young reporter. The costumer breaks into the interview to show the director two beautiful dresses. "Which should she wear, the red or the blue?" Mr. Hitchcock answers immediately "Blue." and the costumer runs off to dress the leading lady. The reporter asks how he made that decision so quickly. He responded "It doesn't matter, the film is in black and white. But I'm the director and I'm expected to make a decision."*

Whenever I overthink something I just think "It doesn't matter, it's in black and white. What matters is that a decision is made and everyone can move forward."

*I've since heard it also attributed to a color-blind director, which changes the punchline appropriately, but doesn't change the meaning.
posted by Ookseer at 4:41 PM on February 7, 2012 [19 favorites]

Best answer: This is why meditation was invented.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Flip a coin.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 4:50 PM on February 7, 2012

Best answer: I know I read this somewhere on Metafilter in the very recent past, though I can't remember the context:
Someone's suggestion (maybe to help yourself get out of bed?) was to count down from 10 to 1. You decide you're going to do something on 1 (in this case, exit the overthinking loop and start doing something more productive), you start counting, and you kinda go on automatic and just end up doing it. The one time I actually remembered to do it, it worked. I should do it more often.
posted by mean square error at 4:50 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Three sayings:

1) "Do something necessary. Do something useful. Do something." In that order.

2) "Don't clean shrimp." In the restaurant biz, on one of the most chaotic nights imaginable, I went looking for the owner to solve an important problem. I found him in the kitchen doing the most useless thing I could imagine. His business is coming apart at the seams and he's cleaning shrimp. Do something useful. Don't clean shrimp.

3) In the newspaper business, we always said, "this is tomorrow's fishwrapper." In other words, it may be important now, but relax. It's literally worthless in the great grand scheme of things.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:51 PM on February 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: One thing that's been tremendously helpful for me: "the harder the decision is, the less it actually matters." You're a smart person, okay? If there's a decision that has a right answer - "Should I go out with my awesome friends at this cool event they've planned or should I stay home and give the hedges a good trim" - you are capable of making it! It's only when you have decisions where the choices are equally positive or equally negative that you start struggling. Don't! If you're beanplating whether to go to a cooking class or the aquarium or catch up on a tv show, arbitrarily pick one and give yourself permission to enjoy the snot out of it.
posted by estlin at 5:41 PM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if you're talking about beanplating in terms of fretting over very small issues, or beanplating in terms of constantly rehashing what seem like large and important issues. If it's the former, it can be fun, but not everything needs to be maximized. Here on MeFi I learned the terms "maximizer" and "sufficer" and I've worked at becoming more of a "sufficer" -- someone who settles for most general criteria in a decision to be met instead of constantly analyzing why some situation isn't perfect.

But if it's the latter, I have a word for you: rumination. That's what creates an 'infinite loop' - going over and over and over the same topic in your head in a compulsive fashion. If you're doing that I recommend searching for the terms "ruminating" and "stopping ruminating," and the like, because it's a common psychological thing that people work on in and outside of therapy and there are a lot of discussions of it and resources about it.

I love the word's derivation - from the act of chewing and re-chewing cud that bovines do - which is a perfect analogy for continuing to chew on the same old chaff.
posted by Miko at 6:31 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Often a decision is difficult because it's too close to call. I remember spending hours reading about Swiss train ticket discount options trying to decide which would be the cheapest/easiest I realise that the decision was so difficult because a) there was no clear winner combined with b) I could not see into the future.

You make the best decision with the information you have.
posted by kjs4 at 6:43 PM on February 7, 2012

Sedona Method. The book has everything you need to know; no expensive seminars required.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:06 PM on February 7, 2012

Best answer: This comment about repetitive and obsessive thinking was just re-linked recently in another thread, and I found it very helpful.
posted by gladly at 7:57 PM on February 7, 2012

"Whatever happens, I can handle it."

"Is there anything I can do right now to improve the situation? If so, do it. If not, stop thinking about it until it's time to do something." (Especially good for job-related worrying in the middle of the night.)
posted by scody at 10:46 PM on February 7, 2012

Pretty much reiterating what estlin said, if you are struggling between a few options and vacillating between them it is often because the choices are equally valid or there are no serious barriers to choosing anyone of them.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 1:32 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far! Miko got it right - it's not small decisions I'm fretting over, it's that habit of "compulsive rumination".
posted by fix at 5:17 AM on February 8, 2012

Best answer: I've found writing out my thoughts or discussing them with someone to be helpful in breaking the cycle of rumination. Actualizing the thoughts, getting them out, and responding to them (a la cognitive behavioral therapy) or getting a response to them keeps them from rattling around in my skull and allows me to move on.
posted by radioaction at 7:02 AM on February 8, 2012

Best answer: My ex accused me of overanalyzing and overthinking, and only after she broke up with me did I realize it was true! I've been reading a book You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffery Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. Overthinking is one of the examples of un-helpful coping mechanisms they address.
posted by simongsmith at 7:52 AM on February 8, 2012

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