“Dwelling” “Stressing” “Over indexing”
What is it?
It shows up in many forms. You lost your job, your business isn’t doing well, your case is going bad, you’re getting overweight, got a bad medical diagnosis, sustained an injury, your kids are out of control, you need more money…and you spend days, weeks, months, sorrowing over it, instead of actually doing something about it or focusing on the positive aspects of the situation. That, is what I call “dwelling”, aka “stressing”, or some people call it “over indexing”. It happens when we put way too much weight than is necessary or sensible in a disappointing situation. It is crippling, limiting, and paralyzing. It causes you to zone in so much on your failure or disappointment, that you become blinded to your record of success. Basically, nothing good comesfrom it. It pleases me that more bar associations are highlighting that our lawyers are really challenged in this area.
Now there’s nothing wrong with taking time to process disappointment. In fact, I think that is necessary. However, there is something wrong with indefinitely processing disappointment without making a decision on what you’re going to do about it and then actually doing it. The goal of processing disappointment should always involve self-examination of what was done wrong, and how to make it better in the future.
I have grown significantly into a “let it go” type of person, and it is a much better existence. This is not to be confused with being nonchalant. To contrary, I work very hard (too hard most of the time) both on my physical health, as well as my personal and professional life. However, what I have started to practice more is just letting the situation go after I’ve done all that I can do.
Quite frankly, I also started reading a lot of books about the connection between our mental and physicalhealth and they scared me straight! I easily and quickly concluded after a few books that I will not let any problem that comes my way cost my life. Yes, that might seem like an exaggeration, but the authors of a book I’m now reading called “My Cancer is Me” might disagree. As a cancer survivor, the author discusses his belief that cancer is the result of both your physical and mental processes, and proposes that healing yourself from negative emotions, anger, guilt and other emotional stressors is necessary to physical healing .
One of my other favorite and easy reads is called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. I first bought his book before I started law school and still jump to a random chapter every now and then. I really love this author’s perspective on why we should stop obsessing over things.
Against that background, here are a few examples of issues that routinely come up in my life that would stress me out to no end regardless of how significant, or insignificant they were, and how I now train my mind to deal with them:
Then: Ugh! I filed a motion with the court and forgot to make one of my most important points. I can’t believe I did that! I wonder what elseI forgot to do… or say! Maybe I didn’t research this issue enough… blah blah blah…
Now: Well, I’m not perfect. I’ll just file an amended motion or bring up the argument at the hearing. I’m not going to multi task so much when I’m filing something important in the future.
Then: I’m being a bad parent. I leave my daughter by 7am every morning and don’t come home until 7pm, at which point I either continue to work or have zero energy left to even carry a conversation.
Now: I’m glad that my daughter can see me as role model and example of how hard work is directly tied to success. I’m going to put more effort into doing most of my work at work, so we can connect and chat more when I come home. I’m also going to make sure that she understands that I’m not perfect but I’m working on it.
Then: Well, there goes my plan to get in 5 days of exercise this week. I can’t believe I only went to the gym 1 day. Why is this so hard ?? This is why I can’t keep my weight under control. There’s never enough time!
Now: Even though I only got 1 day of exercise in this week it’s better than zero. My nutrition is good, and most weeks I do get 5 days in so 1 bad week out of the 52 weeks in the year is not going to unravel my progress. I’m going to start bringing gym clothes with me to work everyday just in case I get a break to go at lunchtime or after work. If that won’t work, then I will just wake up an hour earlier.
What to do about it?
In closing, here are some things I think you should consider as you try to move into a healthier mental space:
1.Are you doing too much?
Biting off more than you can chew is a guaranteed way to become miserable and stressed. If you are running a business, maybe you should invest in outsourcing some of the tasks on your plate so you can be really effective at what you specialize in. If you are running multiple businesses or projects, it might be time to decide which one to prioritize and table the others at least for now. I know, easier said than done. However, when the alternative is your mental health, the decision should become easy.
2.Are you functioning in your zone?
I’ve always had just one single study tip for my daughter – figure out what works for YOU! Everyone has their own personal style of learning or doing things in a way that works for them. This means that it is important to spend time and pay attention to when you are most effective, ie. when you’re in your zone. I’m a morning person. My personal zone is anywhere between 4am and midday. All my engines are firing 100% during these hours and I don’t need coffee. I just need to be left alone. I can get more done during these hours than if I were to try doing the same tasks after midday. I think everyone has a time and environment that puts them in their own personal zone.
3.Are you really giving it your BEST shot?
“I eat healthy but I still gain weight”. When someone says this to me, I always ask what exactly they are eating. The answer is usually in the form of very high carb, sugar and processed foods. Also, they hate exercising and don’t do it. Ok, something has to give. Are you making an excuse or are you really trying your best ? Are you making ultimate sacrifices to meet your personal, professional and physical health goals? I remember when the last 5 pounds I wanted to get rid of would not budge, and my trainer told me that he wanted me to start working out twice per day. My body had plateaued. He wanted me to do 30 minutes of cardio in the morning and then weight train in the evenings with him. I made the change and scale started to move again. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. Evaluate whether you’re doing your best or just making excuses.
4.Make a list of the good things about your situation
In every dark cloud there is a silver lining. If you’re so obsessed with the dark cloud, you won’t see it. Change your perspective on how you see disappointment. Here are some examples. That relationship didn’t work out, but it made you a better person for this better person. I didn’t get that big job with that big firm, but I am so happy with the people I work with now. Your parents couldn’t provide much for you as a child, but it so exciting and fulfilling to make them see how successful you’ve become anyway. You lost your job, but now you’re actually living your passion and are or will soon make a good living doing it. You got in a car accident, but thank God it wasn’t worse and it’s time to focus on driving more carefully. You are so overworked and tired everyday, but grateful to have a job and be earning enough to meet some, most or all of your expenses. I believe you can find something good to focus on in every “bad” situation.
5.Focus on the people who are depending on you to succeed
For me, this is easy because I have a daughter to provide for. Failing is not an option in my book. However, even if you are not a parent, maybe there are other people in your life who look up to you as a role model and you care enough not to disappoint them.
6.Positive vibes only
I keep a playlist on my phone that has been in creation since 2009 with all my favorite songs that totally make me feel like a badass who is going to conquer the world. Seriously. This playlist has taken me through every law school final and even the Florida bar exam. Whenever I start to doubt myself, I put my headphones in and get the dose of confidence I need. If you are a music person, I encourage you to give this a try!