I talked with a woman the other day who was stressed and frustrated with herself. She had recently decided she was done with her professional day job, and was going to develop some ideas she had been playing with and start her own business.
But when she started to approach these ideas to move them into reality, she told me that’s where she would start spinning. She described it as “flushing my mental energy down the toilet,” which is pretty descriptive. She just couldn’t move forward, couldn’t get productive.
It’s not that she didn’t have good ideas. She just found herself approaching the couple of creative ideas she had, and then spinning her mental wheels – which one was better? What if neither idea was good enough to risk leaving her job for, a job she didn’t love but didn’t hate either?
Why did some of the friends she shared the ideas with think that both of the ideas were great, while others gave her a look like she was crazy to even consider leaving her secure job? What if those friends judged her, left her?
Meanwhile, nothing concrete got done. Week after week. No productivity, no forward movement.
This mental doing without actual productivity is a common kind of stress, and ends up being an energy drain. And a productivity killer. I know this place myself when there’s a lot going on at once sometimes. The problem usually involves one or both of these common inner habits:
1) Our minds start to go into overdrive, but not just in the present. We begin jumping mentally into the future and telling ourselves scary stories of what might happen (but isn’t now).
2) We start to disconnect from our bodies as we pay intense attention to our thoughts and our “what-iffing” ourselves into the future. When we’re disconnected from our bodies, we lose our capacity for intuition, for deeper knowing; for landing firmly in our truth about something.
Over-thinking is exhausting and draining usually because one or both of these is going on. Then we’re drained. And nothing gets done.
The best thing to do when the mental wheels get spinning, is to address both of those challenges directly:
1) Catch the mental “what if’s.” Unless you are generating a list of creative ideas, “What if” only takes you out of present time into an imagined future, usually one of worst-case scenarios. Get yourself back to present time. Focus on something in the room, on something or someone right in front of you. It’s the only moment you’ve got any control in anyway.
2) Get back in connection with your body, which only lives in the present (and gets stressed when you’re off in the past or future mentally). Feel your feet. Jump up and down a few times. Get grounded again in your physicality, in the energy you do have.
Then pick one thing that’s a priority, and just start again. You’ll be back in the present again, where you can choose to chunk out just one small piece of a priority item, and get it done.