“You just have to keep flossing.”
That’s what one of my clients told me. Sometimes life is like that. You just have to keep flossing, keep getting out of bed, and keep opening the blinds. These basics in life are essential to keep doing because our challenges sometimes feel like they are going to take us down.
I am seeing people with more anxiety, stress and distress than ever before in my career as a therapist. This is especially true among high school and college students. The question is why?
I have thought about this question a lot over the last few years. Let me share my thoughts.
I see people seeking therapy more out of dealing with life and less mental illness these days. It is about coping with just how to “do life.”
When we become overwhelmed, or stressed, we are in survival mode. The two biggest symptoms of overwhelm and stress are anxiety and overthinking. We believe that overthinking will allow us to figure out what is not working. This is an illusion. Overthinking just freezes us and keeps us stuck in our tracks.
So what is the solution? It’s actually the opposite of overthinking. Stop, slow down, breathe, and ask yourself a few questions that help to move forward.
What is truly important to me right now? What outcome do I want? Is this good for others and myself? What do I need? What step can I start with? Is there someone I can talk to that can give me some advice or thoughts?
Can you see how much more productive asking these questions could be than the same thought over and over with no movement?
The best questions to ask are what, when, where and how questions but not why questions.
When we ask why questions, we tend to get a quick reactive answer, rather than a deeper answer.
I like to say “why” is a lie. It is not the real answer, it is just what we want to tell others or ourselves.
Our obsessive thoughts tend to also focus on globalized thoughts: “I should have done better,” “I can’t make mistakes,” “What will people think,” “I don’t measure up,” “I need to make more money,” “If I fail, I’m bad,” “Something is wrong with me.” The list can go on.
When we overthink and globalize our thoughts, we become anxious, which actually blocks the mind from really figuring out what needs to happen. We need to trust ourselves that we do know the answer.
Remember that what we think about the most, we become. If we keep focusing on the negative over and over, there is no space mentally for the positive to be seen.
Overthinking steels the moment. Overthinking blocks us from using our heart and our intuition to help us. Trust yourself. Stop overthinking about what is not working and focus on what could possibly go right.
Another point that is important to remember is to never overthink what you cannot change, cannot control. Let that go, but rather focus on what you can change and what you can control.
On The Minds Journal website, they give an excellent and valid list of what we all need to quite doing right now:
- Trying to please everyone.
- Fearing change.
- Living in the past.
- Putting yourself down.
If you look at this list, they all stem from not trusting yourself. So, take a deep breath, feel your feet on the ground, and be committed to be kind to yourself.
Oh—and never stop flossing.
Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at DrZavala.com or [email protected].