Greetings crocuses!

Are you having a good week? I hope you are. I hope it’s full of spring flowers if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, and fall coziness if you’re in the Southern. 

Are you feeling a little worn out? It’s okay, you can tell me.

I ask because everyone I have been talking to this week is a little worn out. I remember in college, we used to get to this month and suddenly everyone was a T.S. Eliot fan. Eliot, who wrote, in his epic poem, The Wasteland:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding 

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain.”

If you’ve been here a while, it will not surprise you to know I have a theory about why you might be worn out. (If you’re new here-hi! I have a lot of theories. You’ll see.)

My theory about why we’re worn out is two-fold. First, a lot of you have been pushing since January. Sprinting in fact. Did you know that a lot of productivity + time management expert-types recommend that you approach projects in 90 day/quarterly chunks? That’s because we can sustain long-term focus effectively for about 90 days, and then our attention really starts to suffer and wander, and our energy wanes, and we start to burn out.

(Unless if you’re like me and my clients, and your attention wanders from the beginning–but more on how and why that happens in a second.)

So, January rolled around, and with it you had big plans, and, with any luck and determination, you’ve been grinding on those since then. Ninety days since January puts you at the end of March. My guess is, if you’re anything like my clients and myself, you didn’t stop at the end of March to pat yourself on the back with a job well done and regroup.

Nope, you probably just kept steam-rolling through your life and your to-do list. (Unless something made you stop–have you noticed that a lot of people get sick right around the end of March? I’m sure some of it’s seasonable and I’m obviously not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I’m also sure some of it has to do with your body getting tired from being pushed for three months.)

Or maybe you haven’t gotten a lot of things done. Maybe you had big plans for this year and they have kind of stalled out and you’re starting to freak. You’re thinking,

“It’s April, which means May is around the corner, and you know how hard it is to get things done in the summer! And then the year is practically over–what are you doing with your life????”

This is what’s known in my world as a thought-spiral. 

Thought-spirals are the second reason you might be feeling a little worn out. 

I traveled this week, to give a workshop to a group of lovely, super smart, crazy successful people on how to transfer some of their business success mojo into marriage and family mojo. It was pretty magical. 

On the flight home, I uncharacteristically made friends with the person sitting next to me. I say uncharacteristically because my usual modus operandi on planes is to stick my earbuds in, wrap myself in two scarves (one for my body and one around my head) and then put one of those eye mask things over my eyes until I reached what I call “Plane Mummy Status,” just in case the message to other passengers (“disturb me at your own risk”) wasn’t abundantly clear already. 

Anyways, this person was British (and therefore had a dark sense of humor) and owned their own business, and also seemed to enjoy it when I complained about how my previous seat mate on my last flight had slurped his tomato juice the entire flight and nearly driven me mad, so we were pretty well-suited to a conversation. 

We were talking about various things, when they turned to me and said, 

“So do you have a problem, with like, thinking too much sometimes?”

This was said after I was asked a relatively simple question. (“So, why do you call your partner your partner? I know other people who do that, and I’ve always wondered why…”) And I answered with a lengthy, complex explanation (about why I do, and then also some speculation about why others do it. And yes the word “hetero-normative” may have been used).

I think I actually laughed out loud. A short barking, “ha! Uh, yes.” (Duh.) 

And then I thought about it. Naturally.

“I do,” I said. “I used to think I couldn’t help it, but then I realized, I like thinking about things a lot. I always have. It’s actually a form of play, for me, for my brain. Complexity is fun. “

This represents a big shift for me. I used to kind of beat myself for over-thinking, for the thought spirals I can get into. For using words like hetero-normative in non-academic conversations. 

That’s because I wasn’t separating between good, curious, playful fun-for-me thought spirals, and ones that left me confused, circling, the drain, “driven witless, whipsawed by confusion,” as advice columnist E. Jean would say.  

(Another reason is because I used to be way more sensitive about seeming like a know-it-all, or a smarty pants to other people. If you are a thinky, sensitive person, you know that people aren’t always crazy about people who seem like they think about things a lot. That shit is threatening, to peers and adults alike.)

So, the second reason I want to posit that you might be a little worn out is that you find yourself stuck in one of those bad-for-you thought-spirals. 

Maybe it’s about a problem you’re facing that just feels impossible to crack. 

Maybe it’s about how you’ve been working hard towards something for so long and you can’t seem to stop treading water. 

Maybe things are going great in your life and it’s freaking you the fuck out, this waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

Maybe you have tons of things you thought you wanted, and it’s exhausting and how are you supposed to maintain this level of grind and focus and attention forever??

Have you ever thought, “If I could just turn off my brain, my life would be so much easier?”

That’s because when you thought-spiral about these things, you tend to spiral down, right? It leaves you feeling paralyzed, stuck, exhausted, drained, confused. It does not get you the results you want.  

And then maybe you get mean. To yourself. You try to tell yourself to get over it, to suck it up, to gut it out, or just pick something, dammit, and move on. 

The best thing you can do, short of hiring someone like me to get you out of the bad thought-spirals and into a playful, helpful, good ones, is to take a couple of deep breaths, stop being mean to yourself, and turn that spiral around.

In other words, start spiraling up instead of down. 

Put that sensitive thinking brain to work for you, asking questions like “what if?” and “how can I” that your brain cannot resist–but instead of asking them like this:
“What if I can’t do this? What if I don’t have what it takes?”

“How can I keep this up, I am so tired, I want to quit??”

Ask yourself

“What if I just assume I do have it what takes? What if I assume I’m perfectly suited and capable of getting this thing I want?”

Then, it’s not about being someone you’re not, it’s about using what you have.

Or, “How can I make this easier on myself? How can this be more fun?”

Then, it’s not about punishing yourself, or knuckling down, or slogging through. It’s about making the process more enjoyable, and therefore more sustainable. 

Even just asking yourself, “how could I spiral up instead of down here?” is a helpful question.

When we spiral down, we get stuck. When we spiral up, we get energized. We create momentum. 

And momentum is a beautiful thing.

You know what else is beautiful?

Owning that you are a thinky, sensitive person, who likes complexity, who yearns for nuance, who has fun thinking about things on many levels, and that you are all of those things while living a world that tells us to dumb everything down and keep it simple, stupid.

Own. That. Shit.



PS–If you know someone who is a sensitive, overthinker who needs help spiraling up instead of down, please send this to them, in case they want to join our Overthinkers Anonymous meetings.  

If you got this forwarded to you, and you’d like to join Overthinkers Anonymous (aka subscribe to my love notes newsletter), welcome! You can join here