How I overcame 'analysis paralysis'
I went through a phase in my life where I let myself become consumed with my own thoughts. This surfaced primarily when making decisions. The odd thing was, it was never related to big, important life decisions. Instead it was related to the small things and usually associated with some feeling of guilt. For example, I would drive myself crazy trying to figure out how to tell a friend that I couldn't go travelling with her or declining a family dinner so I could finish up something that was important to me.
First world problems.
I associated these feelings with my need to ensure everyone around me knew how much I cared. But in doing this, I put far too much pressure on myself.
The result was a complete mental takeover.
I’d debate the outcome of a decision repeatedly in my mind until I’d have feelings of anxiety creep up inside me and my mind would feel heavy with confusion. In more extreme cases, I would hit a wall and not be able to think or do anything. 'Analysis paralysis', perhaps? Little did I know at the time that I was having full on panic attacks. I reached out to my sister, and instead of helping me make the decision, she responded in a way that shocked me. “I think you need to see a therapist. Your anxiety is out of control”.
Anxiety? Just because I was trying to make a decision about who to show up for? I had no idea that’s what was happening. But simply because I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling anymore, I decided to take her advice. And she was right.
Here’s how the next few steps I took changed my life.
1. Talk to someone. I booked a few sessions with a therapist and found the feeling of unloading my thoughts onto someone with zero bias absolutely freeing. My therapist said one thing to me that stuck with me. When I explained that I just wanted to ensure I didn’t let anyone down, she said, “Who is your priority?” After a few attempts at listing the people who were truly important to me, I realized the answer she was looking for was, my priority is me. Not in a selfish way. In a, if you don’t care for yourself you can’t care for others, type of way.
2. Meditation. This has been the core to my progress in getting over ‘analysis paralysis’. Meditation has saved me. I meditate for 10-20 minutes each morning and evening and the benefits I’ve noticed throughout my life are amazing. I am more present when I’m in social situations and I can now logically determine what situations I want to be in without allowing thoughts of guilt or regret to control me. I’m genuinely happier, more relaxed and productive because of it. I started by looking up 10-minute guided meditations on YouTube and have now progressed into meditating on my own. I highly recommend starting, it can’t do any harm.
3. Working out. I’ve worked out all my life. But in the past two years, I’ve developed a consistent routine of working out every morning at a gym that truly motivates me. I signed up with a HIIT gym that solely focuses on classes so that I can walk in every morning and not have to worry about figuring out what to do on the treadmill. Being there every morning and having the trainers push me feels amazing. I’ve lost 10 pounds and have gotten stronger. It’s also unleashed a desire in me to try different workouts in order to continue to keep getting stronger. I’ve incorporated running into my days and hope to incorporate some yoga into my weeks soon.
All of these things combined have helped me prioritize my mental and physical health which has allowed me to truly show up for the people I love. I’ve had to learn to decline plans which wasn’t easy for me. However, saying no to plans has really helped free up time for myself. If you have trouble saying no to plans, check out my blog on The art of saying “no”.
My latest exploration was to sign up with a career and life coach who helped me with that last push for focus. My coach, Dan Dowling, helped me to clearly determine my short and long-term goals and then set daily check boxes to accomplish them. Dan’s article, The weekly planning method for people who hate planning sums up his planning method and I encourage anyone who is looking for that final push to read it!
I hope this article has provided you with some relief if you ever find yourself in a state of analysis paralysis. Just know that a deep breath can bring clarity and that, in the end, everything is always working out for you.