Anxiety Buster: Time to Think

How do you spend/invest your time?

Who do you spend your time with?

Do you have any guilt over your answers?

I think our personality types play into how we answer these questions. For me, as an INFJ, I struggle with what I have to do versus what I need to do. In my list of “Have to do”, I have survival & legal responsibilities — things like homeschool my kids; make meals; buy groceries; do the laundry. In my “Need to do”, I have soul-filling things like write; take a walk; connect with loved ones. Somewhere inbetween the two are activities that I both have and need to do; things like go to church; go to Bible Study; be a part of the worship team. I’d love for those inbetweens to just be needs, but in ministry-life, they sometimes slide too far into the “have to do” category.

My GP from several years ago, when I was finally discussing my depression and reaching out for help, would often ask me, “So, what have you done for you this past week?” My kids were young and I was struggling, so going shopping for groceries as a family, or on my own with the kids, — that was my big break – if you could call it that. I would often take them all on a nature walk – a parade of stroller and bike(s). We’d pick wild berries and apples and look at the lake and watch the birds. My husband was in and out of ministry and we were seemingly stuck here, waiting on God for the next call. There wasn’t much money for extravagance. Doing something for myself would have been very simple and mostly take place at home, surrounded by my little kids and husband.

Resentment grows when our balance beam is too tilted towards the “Have to do”. When we ignore our “Need to do”, bitterness takes root. How do we rebalance?

These questions require time and thought to answer. Not every personality is introspective. Many people would suggest that introspection is overthinking, and overthinking is generally perceived as negative. Here is one example of a quote on overthinking:

Is this quote truly addressing introspection in the form of overthinking? Or it is talking about worrying and rumination?

Here’s another take on overthinking:

It could be argued that the overthinker is a people-pleaser in this scenario, maybe at risk of co-dependency, but perhaps they could just be a sensitive, empathic soul?

An interesting article on the subject of taking time to think was published in 2014 by The New York Times. In “No Time to Think“, author Kate Murphy challenges this negative view of what others deem as ‘over thinking’. “…you can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.”

A few years ago, I came across this post, “What I Wish Someone Had Said to Me When I First Got Depressed” by Anni. My heart resonated with the following: “You are highly intuitive. The advice to “be present” and “stay out of your head” and “clear your mind” is not good advice for you. You need more thinking time than you are currently getting and not less. The more you can let your mind run free without distractions, the more the insights and solutions to your problems will come to you naturally.

What some will judge as a waste of time – that introspective, puzzle-solving, emotional, logical, set-apart space – can actually be part of your healing journey. Rather than be shamed into keeping yourself so busy that you don’t have time to think, or guilted into completing your “Have to do” list over your “Need to do”, you can choose to schedule your priorities to include living your life well. You can prioritize your health and along with eating well and exercising and medical check-ups, you can take time to think.

It may sound counter-productive to those who value doing over being; or who can’t be vulnerable enough to sit with uncomfortable emotions or thoughts, but the very thing that they avoid, that makes them feel sick – is the very thing that we may need to get well.

This anxiety-buster: taking time to think, isn’t about digging a pit of rumination or worry or grief too deep to crawl out of; it’s about stopping to skip rocks across the mud puddles in our mind until we’ve built a bridge to cross them.

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