4 tips to stop overthinking

4 tips to stop overthinking

Written by Darius Foroux on Septembre 3rd 2019

How many hours per day do you think?

 

“I never thought about that,” you’re probably saying. So let me get this straight: You’re thinking all the time, and yet you never consider how much time you spend thinking. That sounds like an addiction to me. I know, because I’m addicted to thinking, too.

Overthinking is a common problem, but when it gets out of hand it can lead to sleep disruption, “analysis paralysis,” and even threaten mental health. It’s also a difficult one to diagnose, let alone cure.

When I eat too much, I can say, “I’m overeating. I need to eat less.” When I work too much, I can say, “I’m getting burned out. I need to stop working.” When I drink too much, I can say, “I need to stop. I need a bottle of water.” But when I think too much, it’s not enough to just say “I’m overthinking.” I need a different approach to unclog my brain.

The problem is that most people don’t consider overthinking a problem. When someone criticizes overthinking, we often assume that the problem is dwelling upon or spiraling through negative thoughts. We tend to assume, by the same token, that positive thoughts are good. But it’s a mistake to assume all positive thoughts are good.

What most self-help advice says is to scrap the negative thoughts and double down on the positive thoughts. On the surface, this sounds like good advice. But the truth is that when you overuse your brain, for positive or negative, it can get clogged just like a drain. The result? Foggy thinking. Which leads to bad decision- making.

You are not your thoughts

Thinking isn’t considered a habit to curb because it’s so closely connected to our core identities. No one said it better than Marcus Aurelius in Meditations: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

What he’s saying is that our lives are shaped by the quality of our thoughts. I believe in that. However, most of us assume that we are our thoughts.

We say: “Well, I can’t help but think these things. That’s just me.” No, that’s not you. You can decide what thoughts to ignore. I like how Eckhart Tolle puts it in The Power Of Now: “The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity — the thinker.”

The only way to stop identifying yourself with your thoughts is to stop following through on all your thoughts. Instead, decide to live in the present moment — where you don’t have time to think, only to experience.

How do you live in the present moment?

Thinking is a tool. Instead of using that tool constantly during the 16 or 17 hours that you’re awake, pull it out to use it when you need it.

But how do you do that? Here’s the four-step process I’ve used to stop overthinking:

  1. Raise your awareness throughout the day. Realize that too much thinking leads you away from your goals, not toward them.
  2. Start observing your thoughts. Every time you begin a thought, don’t follow through on it. Instead, simply notice that you started thinking. When you do that, your brain won’t get carried away.
  3. Limit your thinking to dedicated times. For example, when journaling or setting your daily priorities, sit down and really think. Give yourself a specific amount of time — say, 15 minutes. During those moments, it’s perfectly fine to follow through on your thoughts. What we’re trying to stop is the constant thinking.
  4. Enjoy your life. Let go of all your thoughts about yesterday and tomorrow. No matter how much you want to achieve in the future, and no matter how much you’ve suffered in the past, appreciate that you are alive now.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you to “enjoy doing the dishes.” That’s not my style. When I’m doing something I dislike, I’ve learned to just do it without judgment.

But when I’m doing something I actually like, no matter how big or small, I genuinely enjoy it. When I’m listening to music, watching a movie, or spending time with my family, friends, or my girlfriend, that’s when I’m in the moment.

I don’t think about my goals, failures, or things I have to do tomorrow. I’m just here. Right now. Just like the moment that you’re taking to read these words. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Realize that on a deeper level, and you’ll never even dare to leave the present.

Are you with me? Don’t think too much about it.

How about bringing a “week-end feeling” into your week? Solutions to apprehend your week more serenely

How about bringing a “week-end feeling” into your week? Solutions to apprehend your week more serenely

Originally published in the HuffingtonPost on October 4th 2019

The weekends are supposed to be our intentional break from work. When you’re burned out, you can forget what a break actually feels like.

Burnout is a real occupational hazard, and it does not disappear when the workweek is done. The tired, snappy, apathetic employee at the office is the same person who still holds those grudges at home. 

According to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, the main criteria for burnout isn’t necessarily being overworked. It can also come from being under-challenged. Burnout is chronic workplace stress that can result in feelings of being drained and being increasingly disengaged and cynical about your work.

When you are experiencing burnout from the stress of your job, you can forget what time off is supposed to feel like. You can even develop bad habits on the weekend that are making you feel even more drained and overwhelmed on Monday morning.

Psychologists and career experts shared weekend habits that can contribute to burnout and offered solutions to combat it.

 

You live too much for the weekend.

There’s a difference between having something to look forward to on your days off and having that be the only part of the week you live for. That’s when this all-or-nothing thinking can be a sign of underlying burnout. “When people say, ‘I hate Mondays,’ or ‘Thank God it’s Friday,’ these are cute little sayings, but what you’re telling yourself is, ’80% of my life sucks,’” said clinical psychologist Ryan Howes.

“When people split their week up and start thinking of work as bad and the weekend as all good, that contributes to the problem,” Howes said. “They spend all weekend dreading going back to work on Monday and griping and complaining about it.”

 

Solution: Bring your weekend into your week, and find engagement elsewhere.

“If your weekends are filled with connecting with friends and getting some rest and going on little adventures, fantastic. How can you make that part of your workweek?” Howes said. Examples Howes offered are getting breakfast with a non-work friend or going to a bookstore on your lunch break.

When your work is draining the life out of you, “people have to feed their soul,” said Adriana Alejandre, a licensed marriage and family therapist. She said that surrounding yourself with people who are funny can be helpful and that trying something new can invigorate curiosity.

When you feel like your job isn’t challenging enough and you’re burned out from being under-challenged, you can also find fulfilment elsewhere, said Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and executive coach. “That weekend time can be really valuable for starting a side hustle or volunteering or doing an artistic project. Something that makes you feel more engaged,” she said.

You can’t stop thinking and venting about work.

Constantly complaining about your terrible colleagues and your overbearing boss on the weekend can feel like a stress release in the moment, but in the long-run, this rumination can make you feel even worse.

When you can’t get the feelings off your chest and keep expressing these negative emotions, Howes said, “you’re not venting, you’re ruminating, you’re dwelling on it, you’re holding a grudge, and that means that the venting isn’t effective.”

 Solution: Gain self-awareness and reframe your thinking. 

 

“What can I do about this?” is a reframing question Howes said employees can ask themselves to redirect their complaining energy into something productive. “Venting should be the beginning of a problem-solving process, not an end to itself,” he said.

Wilding said a “brain-dumping” ritual of using reflective questions to think about your workweek can provide you the necessary closure to move on to your weekend. “I find a lot of people crash into the weekend and they don’t really have this time to decompress,” Wilding said.

Wilding added that some questions you can ask yourself for this ritual are ones that help you reflect on what did go well, such as, “What did I accomplish this week? Where did I make progress? What would I like to improve?” or ones that have you looking ahead, like, “How can I learn from this going forward?”

By giving yourself emotional and mental closure, you don’t let your work thoughts “leak over and be this pervasive thing that haunts you all weekend,” Wilding said.

 

You’re completely checked out, even in your free time.

When you’re experiencing burnout, your tunnel vision of work, work, work can lead to trouble engaging in the world outside of it on the weekends.

“I see a lot of times where people are so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of life things they have to do or want to do that they just check out over the weekend, so they’re not even spending that time in a restorative way,” Wilding said. “They’re sort of just numbing out with Netflix or bottomless brunches and things like that to escape everything and avoid it.”

 Solution: Be intentional. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t relax on your couch and watch movies, but be thoughtful about this plan. “It’s fine if you’re going in for a Netflix binge for the right reasons, and you know what you want to get out of it,” Wilding said. “As long as it’s a personal choice. But if your reasons are, ‘I just want to turn everything off, I just want to go into my cave and hide from the world,’ then it’s not with the healthiest intentions.”

 

Technology controls you and not the other way around.

When your phone is nearby, you can feel like you are on-call to your boss, even when you’re officially not. You may even find yourself checking email apps and work notifications mindlessly to check in.

First, recognise where this need to be available may be coming from. “Usually, that’s all based in fear. That’s why it’s stressful, because they’re afraid. ‘I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on something. I’m afraid I’m going to get behind. I’m afraid I’m going to come back and be unprepared,’” Howes said.

 

Solution: Create boundaries about when you’re available, and share those expectations. 

If you are driven to stay on-call by a fearful urge of “what if they need me?” self-reflect on how this thinking can perpetuate the burnout cycle. “If they’ve always depended on you and if you reply to them or engage with them on your time off, you’re enabling them to continue relying on you. Fighting against that anxiety is really important,” Alejandre said.

Even if you need to be reachable, you can be intentional about how much work you allow to take up your weekend, Wilding suggested. “Yes, you need to be reachable and you need to put parameters on that,” she said.

Once you make boundaries for yourself, you can share what your parameters are to others. “Be clear around your working hours, when you will be available, when you won’t be available, and the timeframe in which you’ll get back to someone,” Wilding said.

 

Burnout is not always your problem, but you should feel empowered to change what you can.

Of course, some of the contributing factors of burnout ― demanding bosses, unreasonable deadlines ― are outside of your control. But this can also be a signal that you need to change what is not working. When you trace your burnout to a systemic toxic source, you need to decide whether staying at this job outweighs what it is doing to your mental health. You may need to have a conversation with your boss about work expectations or get real about your career priorities.

But in the meantime, reclaiming your weekend is possible. But it does take work to cure the stresses of work.

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Are you Ready to move from FOMO to JOMO? Disconnect to better connect!

Are you Ready to move from FOMO to JOMO? Disconnect to better connect!

Originally published in Huffington Post on January 27th 2019

There is joy to be had out there in the real world, so embrace it, welcome it with open arms.

You know that nagging feeling you get, that nervous twitch that makes you check your phone for new messages or that has you relentlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed?

I’m talking about the fear of missing out, or FOMO as the cool kids like to call it, one of an endless list of negative side effects to come out of our social media reliant society. In the same way that people get addicted to alcohol, or get a buzz from gambling, our social media addiction is controlled by the power of the like button; that instant gratification of knowing someone approves of what you have posted. That urgent sense of immediacy, the power of knowing absolutely everything about everybody at any given time, and yet real time seems to almost stand still as we spend minute after minute aimlessly scrolling and swiping for fear of missing out.

But what are we so worried about missing out on exactly?

Well, that is the big question. And as more and more of us are starting to see the benefits of switching off and stepping away from the screens it seems that FOMO has metamorphosised . We‘re no longer concerned about being seen to be hanging out with the right people, at the right place, wearing the right clothes. That kind of life is way too hard to sustain. For starters it costs too much, but then there’s the time and effort it takes, not to mention the detrimental effect it has on our mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

Turning A Negative Into A Positive

There is a now a new acronym on the block, JOMO – the joy of missing out, which actively encourages people to find pleasure in chilling out, turning down invites, saying no and choosing instead to do exactly what they want for a change.

JOMO is the digital detox we’ve all been craving. It allows you to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, to stop comparing yourself to others, to be grateful, to be right there in the moment. To use the famous Kondoism, it is about finding that spark of joy in what you already have. And when the penny finally drops, that by ‘missing out’ on fake digital lifestyles we actually start to create one which is wholly involved, inclusive and real, only then can we truly say we have reached a state of JOMO .

It may sound daunting, however there are steps we can take to help embrace the JOMO way of life:

 

Disconnect

Having a break from social media is one of the best ways to switch off and avert your mind away from other people’s business. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing, but there are small habits you can adopt that will help. For example, keeping your phone downstairs when you to bed each night, switching off the WiFi for a weekend every once in a while, and when you go on holiday keeping the phone for emergency phone calls only. Another thing to consider is whether you need to be using as many platforms as you are. Ask yourself the following questions – do you need a Twitter account as well as Instagram and Facebook? Does one cause you more anxiety than others? Could you live without one of them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, choose one and shut it down today.

 

Reconnect

Having disconnected from your online life now is the ideal time to reconnect with your real life, after all you‘ll have plenty more time to do so now. Make arrangements to see that friend you haven’t seen for ages. Take your mum shopping, visit your Gran, spend some quality time with yourself doing something you haven’t done before but have always wanted to.

 

Reflect

Start your morning on a positive note by setting your intentions for the day and creating healthy wellness habits. Whether you do this by mediating, sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, taking the dog for a walk, or reciting a personal mantra, finding out what mindful practices work for you enables you to take control and to find purpose in your own life.

The only ones who are missing out are those who are caught up in the tangled web of lies that are spun to us in our every waking moment online. They fear they are missing out on something that is, in reality, not as it seems. And the only thing they are missing out on is their own precious life. There is joy to be had out there in the real world, so embrace it, welcome it with open arms and find joy in a life where you are most definitely not missing out.

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10 tips to turn adverse situations into learning opportunities

10 tips to turn adverse situations into learning opportunities

Originally published in Psychology Today on August 17th 2019

Bouncing Back from Adversity

Studies have shown that adverse situations can be learning opportunities.

 

We’ve all had bad days and good days. Because of our states of mind, some days may feel worse than they actually are. Sometimes we might feel like victims, even though, in truth, we may not be. It’s important to remember that by keeping a balanced state of mind, we have a greater chance of conquering most types of adversity.

Adversity may be defined as unfortunate, difficult, or challenging events that occur in our lives. It’s been said that adverse situations can be great opportunities for learning. For example, the Buddhists say that without mud there is no lotus. That is, without experiencing misfortune, we cannot recognize fortunate times and situations. Another way of looking at this is that if we lower our expectations and accept whatever comes our way, we will feel a sense of overall acceptance; thus, adversity will be less of an issue.

The Buddhists also speak about having a big mind, meaning that sharing adverse experiences by either talking or writing about them is one way to cope. The idea is that when we acknowledge our problems, then we can express them in a big-mind way. Unfortunate events become a problem when we try too hard to figure them out. Ultimately, according to Shunryu Suzuki (2010),  in his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “whether you have a problem in your life or not depends upon your own attitude and your own understanding” (p. 92).

As an example, over the years many people have often referred to me as “resilient.” Whether that’s because I bounced back from the loss of a loved one or overcame a life obstacle such as cancer, my style is to just do the best I can do and then move on. In most cases, this is not a conscious decision, but rather it’s a way of living. In other words, it’s a choice and a lifestyle.

In his book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Richard Davidson (2002) says that resilience refers to any individual differences or life experiences that might help people cope with adverse situations in a positive way by helping them deal with stress in the future, which could preclude the development of mental disorders. Those who are resilient are able to believe in themselves and their ability to effectively manage life’s challenges. Also, those who are more resilient than others tend to be more proactive and are more inclined to work hard to prevent certain issues and illnesses from occurring. It might be their only key to survival. It’s unclear if this is a nature-or-nurture character trait, but it certainly comes in handy when one needs to deal with adversity and, in turn, find a way to move forward.

This leads to the idea of prevention, which is always a good policy, whether it pertains to health concerns or building codes. Often we tend to be reactive rather than preventive. We may only begin taking care of ourselves when we’re confronted with a particular diagnosis or health issue, or when a security breach of some sort affects us. Perhaps this is human nature, but do all these warnings suggest that we should change our way of thinking? Is there an overarching message? My sense is that when failures are properly understood, then there’s a context for learning and growth.

Paradoxically, some of the most resilient situations or places are those that are regularly exposed to some sort of disruption. The reason is that they carry the shared memory that, in fact, things can and do go wrong. Is that why New York City, since September 11, 2001, has had few major disruptions over the past decade or so? And is that why Harold Kushner’s book of a few decades ago, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, holds so much truth?

We all have different ways of managing stress, so different strategies can lead to a sense of resilience. Our spiritual beliefs and cultural backgrounds may also come into play when developing this sense.

If you find yourself in an adverse or difficult situation, here are some ways to navigate it:

  • Be flexible, and realize that change is a part of life.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Keep channels of communication open with yourself and others.
  • Remind yourself of strategies that have helped you cope in the past.
  • Be mindful of methods of self-discovery.
  • Engage in a journaling practice to record your feelings.
  • Find a way to manage stress and rash impulses.
  • Make strong connections with others.
  • Be decisive and proactive.
  • Use creative-visualization techniques.

Written by Diana Raab Ph.D.

Les ingrédients d’une culture de l’erreur apprenante

Les ingrédients d’une culture de l’erreur apprenante

Publié dans le magazine HR Today- Alexia Michiels- Août 2019

Mettre en place une culture d’entreprise qui considère l’erreur comme une source d’innovation implique une posture managériale basée sur l’exemplarité, la confiance et l’acceptation de sa vulnérabilité. Une culture du feedback en continu est également décisive.

Separate Who You Are from What You Do

Separate Who You Are from What You Do

Originally published in HRB, August 16th 2019

 

Being passionate about your job is great — but there are limits. If you become so wrapped up in your professional identity that setbacks at work affect your self-worth, that’s a problem. Keep a healthy perspective by distinguishing who you are from what you do. Your job is just that — a job. Maybe you’re a “senior analyst” at work, but in life you’re much more than that. Your worth as a person is not tied to your position on the org chart.

So when someone criticizes a report you wrote or a presentation you gave, remind yourself that they’re criticizing the report or the presentation, not you. By shifting your perspective this way, you build resilience and protect your self-esteem from challenges and even failures (which are inevitable, after all). And having a strong sense of self, in turn, will help you perform better in your role.