Overthinking: Death by Analysis Paralysis
“I have no idea how not to think.”
In my line of work, we often joke about “death by PowerPoint.” You know what I’m talking about–we’ve all been there! Someone walks you through 50 to 100 slides of PowerPoint slides chock full of data, white background, and no color to speak of. Everything blurs together and you learn nothing except for vowing that you’ll never sit through another one of these presentations for as long as you live.
I propose that there’s a similar death when you are working to climb the mountain of mindfulness: death by “analysis paralysis,” or “what if’s.”
Here’s what happens to me when the grim reaper of analysis paralysis knocks on my door: the mind races and a seemingly incessant stream of “what if” scenarios, bordering on the irrational and unrealistic start to unfurl behind my eyes. It’s like watching a bad b-movie where I’m the main star and I can’t seem to get my shit together, over and over again. To add on to the joy of the mindless spiral, physical symptoms of jittery impatience start to manifest: legs jiggling, shallow breathing, shifty-eyed, giving each task or conversation before me approximately 2% of my attention.
Ideas / worries / disappointments / potential failures surface and bleed into more uncertainties that rip me away from my ability to stay present in the moment because I’m busy starring in my own movie of All The Things That Could Possibly Happen in the Future – Ever.
There are few things that can pull me out of that death spiral, but one thing in specific has yet to fail me. And, that is, the importance of body work. By body work, I mean physical activity of any kind, physical touch of any kind (massage, a simple hug from a friend or a loved one), my personal favorite: placing my hand on my heart center, and most recently acupuncture.
There is nothing more grounding than using the strength, movement, and physical presence of this beautiful and imperfect body that I’ve been given. Acupuncture has provided me a forced stillness when I’ve needed it the most. There is no where to go when I’ve got a bunch of needles stuck in random places all over my body. My limbs become heavy on the table. I am forced to face the ugly demons of over thinking, to quiet them, put them in a corner. I am in my own stillness breathing in quiet serenity and breathing out every thought as it slowly loses it’s tenuous grip on the edges of my mind.
My mind elopes frequently with all of the possibilities and uncertainties of life. But my body is always here. Present and in the moment. Rooted and grounded to this earth.
For it carries all of me, mind and spirit.