Don’t Over Think It: Three Easy Steps to Less Stress

We are problem addicts. We talk about them. We dance around talking about them. We formulate answers to them. We dream about a life without them. Even if we aren’t experiencing one, we worry about when it will show up.

We are addicts because we consume and digest problems in an unhealthy way.

Healthy problem-solving entails not giving problems a second thought.

Yes. I said it. Be in denial. Denial. Denial.

No.  I am kidding, but not really.

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The path to enlightenment starts with mindlessness.

The latests scientific research proves that thinking creates problems above all  else.  Before I lose you, let me explain.

Feelings are neutral. They are a surge of hormone that shoots out of your brain in reaction to sensory stimulus. Your mind, based on past experiences, makes a judgement call about these neutral feelings, thus making it “feel” bad or good. Every thought, whether about a parking ticket, a manipulative boyfriend, credit card debt, or a dream vacation, is a response to a feeling in your body. These thoughts turn feelings into problems as fast as you can think, “Oh no!!!!!”

When you walk up to your car and see a $95 ticket, your fight or flight response kicks into high gear. Your amygdala ejects cortisol, which takes a fast lap around your body. When I say fast, I mean 90 seconds.

Yes. Feelings, no matter how severe, only last 90 seconds… if you don’t think about them. 

You can react to your ticket by ripping it in half (fight), running around your car crying (flight;), or standing dumbstruck at the  waste of about 30 hot lattes you could have bought with the same expense.

Whatever you choose, you will return to rational thinking mode in about 90-seconds… if you are patient enough to wait that long. Most people don’t wait. Like most people, you will start labeling, judging, and thinking about your innocent (evolutionary) surge of cortisol. You will judge the surge as anger, and start to feel frustrated. You will think about the other idiotic park jobs you have committed. You will agonize over the 30 hot pumpkin spice lattes you could have ordered with that hard earned money. You worry about what your boyfriend will say, the a-hole who gives you a hard time about your patterns of irresponsibility.

Congratulations! Like most 1st world citizens, you have turned a small drop of hormone into a downward spiral or baggage. 

It is not your fault. You are a Westerner. You didn’t learn that thinking will morph your innocent hormone into chronic anxiety, anger and stress. You didn’t learn to let go of labels and feeeeel your feelings in an ohm shanti kind of way.

Don’t fret, it is not too late. You can stop thinking right now :) Fun, right?

De-problem your life in three-easy steps:

  1. Think of your current problem & breathe.
  2. Focus inward and notice how you feel about your problem. Feelings are physical reactions in the body, like pressure, sinking, butterflies, tension or elation. Disclaimer: These are not feelings. They are thoughts:
    - This always happens to me. 
    - I don’t know what to do about it!
    - Im trying to stay positive. 
  3. From a non-judgmental place, ask, “What is this feeling telling me? Is it telling you to sleep? Or to get more free time? Is it telling you that you deserve better? Or want more? Or are ready for a new perspective? Maybe your feeling means nothing, except that your brain is working.  

The next time you are jonesing for a problem, take a cue from Shakespeare, who said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking (that) makes it so.” 

Take three deep breaths. Appreciate your feeling for 90 seconds and then let it go. From that relaxed place, you might just come up with a rational solution.

Have other ways to kick your mental addictions? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter #problem-addict.

If you have trouble transforming your bigger problems, I’d be happy to hear from you for a free phone consultation, a 90 minute session. Call or email me here.

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