How to Stop Thinking

social-anxiety

Panic sets in.

The questions start swirling…

Why am I wasting my time? What could I be doing instead? What is the most effective or efficient thing to do with my time? What do I want from this life? What am I doing with my life? What is wrong with me? What should I focus on?

STOP.

I know what is happening to me. This isn’t my first rodeo…

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess it depends on how you look at it… I have gotten good at this.

I say unfortunately because it is not good that it has happened so many times. I say fortunately, because by now I am good at handling it better than I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I am not great at it. Hence that is why it keeps happening.

Here’s the deal.

I ask a lot of questions. Just ask my wife.

But the thing is this. I get frustrated at questions too. It is easy to just throw a question mark at the end of any thought. Often in academics they get you to answer questions so that you have to think. And I am okay with thinking. In fact I enjoy it greatly.

What I don’t like is that some questions are not really “answerable”.

And that’s okay.

What is not okay is to get bogged down in panic and fear when these flood gates open.

So when it does, this is what I do:

A) Acknowledge It

I think, “Hey, I notice I am having these racing thoughts. They are not helping anything”.

B) Accept That It Happened

So it happened again. No big deal because now I am dealing with it instead of letting it control me.

C) Remember: “Don’t Panic”

Panicking is easy. Not panicking, not so much…

That takes practice.

So I think back to my previous practice in not panicking. I know that panic stems from anxiety. Anxiety is from worry and worry is from fear. Look back at the panic thought questions from above and you see they are all routed in fear based problems.

  • Why am I wasting my time?

I am afraid that my time is not being used in a good way. I know that time is one precious commodity that we never get back or more of and nothing in the future is guaranteed.

  • What could I be doing instead?

A follow up question showing I fear that I am not making the most of my time. Meaning that what I am doing currently feels useless or pointless and that I should be doing something more meaningful or profitable, etc.

  • What is the most effective or efficient thing to do with my time?

Another follow up based on fear.

  • What do I want from this life?

Fear that I will waste my life doing the wrong things, unimportant things, wasting time, be filled with diversions and entertainments rather than something worthy.

  • What am I doing with my life?

Another fear.

  • What is wrong with me?

Fear that I have issues.

  • What should I focus on?

Fear I am not great at anything because I spend too much time trying to do everything. In            reading Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” he had this suggestion:

And he’s not the only to suggest such a thing. James Altucher as written several times about Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule

“Make a list of the 25 things you want to do in life. Now do the top 5. And NEVER THINK ABOUT THE OTHER 20 EVERY AGAIN.

 

Else they will take time away from the 5 that are most important to you.”

James writes about this because he is talking about “The 20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires”. The thing is, yes, I would like to be a millionaire eventually.

The question is: “Am I willing to do this?”

And by this I mean focus.

The answer?

Yes.

I am willing to focus.

Yet I continue to persist in the old habit of not being focused. So the question is “WHY?” Answer: FEAR. Fear of missing out (FOMO).Fear of not getting to do something I think that I want to do. Fear of failure.

Back to what I was talking about earlier, my steps to stop panicking and basically stop being afraid.

D) Remember my Faith

As part of my Christian faith, I have come to learn and lean on Scripture. The most familiar memory verses that come to mind are Philippians 4:6-7 which in the ESV version reads:

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I know there are more, but this usually is enough to pull my mind back to a place of peace.

Jesus exhorted:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” from Matthew 6:25 (ESV).

And that is hard for me because it means I have to stop being concerned with what I am afraid of and in these situations trust God.

E) Breath

It helps to stop and breath.

Focusing on the breath that the body takes,
takes the focus away from the thoughts that the mind makes.

Tweet: “Focusing on the breath that the body takes,
takes the focus away from the thoughts that the mind makes.” via @StrangerArray

F) Find a Focus

When the thoughts that pulled me “off sides” get back under control, then I have to find a task to focus on. I usually pick something that I was working on before the anxious thinking took over or I find a simple task I can quickly or easily accomplish to build confidence back and be productive in some way. Often times it is washing/taking care of the dishes (if I am at home).

G) Grow

Usually during this focused activity I reflect back on what just happened. You might be thinking, “Wait….what? You think again about the things you were thinking that caused you a problem?”

Yes.

I do this in the new light of not letting the thoughts race rapidly but calmly reflect on them and their cause and what might be a valid concern, even if it is fear based.

Obviously one way I reflect is by writing.

I think about one thought or idea at a time and remember then other things that I have going on in my life to address these issues. The thing is that we live in an ever increasingly instant world where it subtlety becomes expected to get instant results.

But that is not how it works.

How it does work is things take time. It takes time to learn things. To grow. To develop. To get a project completed. To read a book. And on and on…

The point being that processes get things accomplished.

And that is where goal setting and disciple come into play. Do I feel like I am wasting my time because I am? Yes. So I need to not waste my time. But on the reverse, I need time to rest and relax to recharge.

The key is balancing the two.

Especially in our always on society.

My resolution this year was to “Read more and scroll less.”

I’ve read more already.

But I haven’t yet got any significant “scroll less”.

The gains have been marginal. But I am working on growing 1% each day…

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