This is not an easy time for most of us, hey? And to make matters worse our knee jerk way of dealing with the challenges we face may be making it much harder.
You see, when a great challenge or stressful event happens to us, many of us have an unconscious response that just makes things worse. Overthinking.
It’s a habit that doesn’t seem like a big deal at first but here’s the down low.
The Secret to Unhappiness
Research shows that overthinking (which most often comes in the forms of rumination or worry) can lead to anxiety and depression. Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a Yale professor who has spent her life studying overthinking, calls it the “secret to unhappiness”. She notes that the more we engage in overthinking the more miserable we become.
Right now, we are seeing a huge rise in depression and anxiety around the world which I believe is linked to the stress of the pandemic and this unhelpful mental response to it. So today I’m going to share about a really simple way you can let go of the habit of overthinking.
Office Hours: A Simple Practice to Let Go of Overthinking
So I’m going to offer you a bit of a metaphor here. Professors at university hold office hours once or twice a week. They don’t give their students 24-7 access to them because if they did it would become totally overwhelming and debilitating. They would never be able to get any other work done.
Now likewise, if we give our worries, rumination and self doubt 24-7 access to our attention it will be just as debilitating and destructive. We can’t focus properly and we start drowning in stress, anxiety and negativity.
Reclaiming Mental Space and Inner Calm
So what if, like those professors, we set up office hours for our worrying or problem solving? What if we make a deal with ourselves to set aside a brief time every day or every week to do some focused thinking about what could happen in the future and constructive problem solving?
After office hours we let it go.
If we can do that, then whenever we start ruminating or worrying outside of ‘office hours’ we can give ourselves permission to leave it for now knowing that we have either already dealt with it yesterday, or that there is a designated time and space to deal with it later today or tomorrow.
An Invitation and Exploration for the Week Ahead
By giving ourselves office hours like this we can let go of the habit of always overthinking and find more ease and calm in everyday life. We can also deal with life’s challenges in a more clear headed, calm and effective way.
We are going through incredibly difficult times right now in the world so why not make life a little easier for yourself? I invite you to take up office hours for the rest of this week and see how it goes for you.
I’d love to hear how you go with it in the comments section below and if you have any questions or your own ways of dealing with overthinking go ahead and share those too. We’re all in this together and we can help each other through.
PS. The ultimate training for our minds to be calm, clear and focused ongoing is through practicing regular meditation. You can try my Foundations of Mindfulness course today for free on Mindfulness.com.