How Overthinking Doesn’t Help — and Why It Is Better to Worry Less

Sometimes, I tend to overthink.

No, I don’t overthink about people — and spin out conspiracy theories about what they’re gonna do to me . Mostly, I overthink about situations. And being a computer science graduate who has to think of all possible scenarios — and handle them all — certainly doesn’t help.

A simple example would be yesterday’s occurrence: I ordered new clothes from Zara to be delivered to my flat on Thursday night. On Friday afternoon, I received an email that my order had been delivered.

The problem is, I didn’t receive it.

I checked the tracking number by Royal Mail. It said that the address was inaccessible. Stunned, I checked my Zara app to see the address that I gave in there.

I missed a letter!

My brain started to spin out all possible scenarios and how to handle it.

First, I checked what Royal Mail does to packages with inaccessible addresses. They send the packages back to the delivery office to retry sending them again the next day.

“But my package didn’t have the right address. How are they supposed to send it to me?”

I checked again if I could come to the nearest delivery office and get the package myself. However, it was almost impossible to contact the Royal Mail customer service. There are only a lot of web pages sharing instructions of what to do if you don’t get your mail. Redelivery was an option — but only if you received a “We got something for you” card — which I didn’t.

I checked if there was an address with the one I gave to Zara. No, there wasn’t. So my package couldn’t have gone to someone else’s flat.

Then I contacted Zara’s customer service. They tried to be helpful, checking with the courier and telling me my order had been delivered. And they asked me if I had checked with my neighbors to see if my package was with them. Yeah, no help.

Thinking my package could have been in the nearest Royal Mail delivery office, I saw that the office opened today at 7–9 AM. I didn’t want to walk there that early, and my package was worth a little more than £15, so I decided just to call the office at 8 AM. No luck. I was answered by a telephone machine, which redirected me to check their website.

“Oh, well, it was just £15,” thought I. “I cancelled my trip to Edinburgh even though I’ve already bought a ticket costing more than £40 without refund, so just let this one go too. It was only worth a meal, anyway.”

But it kinds of spoiled my mood.

Well, a few hours later, my package arrived, along with another order from another store. I guess the postman saw my name in the other package (which had a correct address). Because they had the same name, he could deliver my package to my place.

Lesson of the day: Sometimes it’s better to “wait and see” instead of fidgeting and worrying about things. In my case, I wanted to sort things out as quickly as possible, so that my package wouldn’t be lost. I brainstormed every possibility in my head, including:

  • “If I procrastinated, my package could have gone to who knows where. What if the package was delivered back to Zara warehouse because it didn’t reach me?”

If I had responded more calmly and waited one more day to let Royal Mail redeliver my package, I would have been spared the worrying part. As I’ve read some time ago in a book, “Worrying gives you something to do, but it never gets the job done.”

Sometimes, it is useful to brainstorm every possible scenario, such as when it is a major life decision, whether it is applying to universities, choosing a job, or starting a business, because there is too much at stake.

However, other times, it is better to relax and not worry too much about things.

And being able to discern when we have to meticulously think of best case and worst case scenarios, and when we have to wait and see, is the fine art of living.

Hakuna matata!

Software engineer at Google. Writes about books, feminism, and self-love.

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