You really need to get things done, but just can’t seem to get the ball rolling. You’re overwhelmed, frozen in place, and can’t even think about what to do first. That’s exactly what analysis paralysis feels like. Also known as ADHD paralysis, analysis paralysis is a symptom of ADHD.
Analysis paralysis can occur whether a person or group is considering a major investment, a life-changing move, or where to go for lunch.
You’re going to start a new workout, launch that project, or create a new habit. Then you get stuck in your head and tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow.
Analysis paralysis looks like:
- Over-thinking rather than doing
- Focusing on worst case scenarios
- Feeling too overwhelmed to start
- Constant brain fog or haziness
Next, we start to self-shame:
- “I never follow-through.”
- “I’m worthless.”
- “There’s no point in even trying.”
- “I’m so lazy.”
The truth is: analysis paralysis is a protective mode. Why would we go into a protection mode when we’re doing something that’s good for us? Because the brain doesn’t care about what’s good for us.
The brain is about conserving energy and keeping us within our familiar patterns. Our familiar patterns feel safe (predictable) to our brain. Even if those patterns are making us miserable.
Our brain hears: “Everything is going to change at once. This is too much, we are in danger because I can’t predict this.”
Next our nervous system becomes activated and we go into fight, flight, freeze.
According to Psychology Today, the root cause is anxiety. It comes from compulsively weighing an endless number of variables while imagining downsides to all of them. In the end, it is impossible to identify the best option from the rest. Recognizing that anxiety is causing paralysis can help.
What are you to do?
First, recognize when analysis paralysis is kicking in.
In doing this for so long, this type of thinking has likely become automatic. You need to slow it down.
Your brain is pushing you to keep thinking and analyzing, but this can be exhausting.
Step back by checking in with yourself when you find yourself focused on decisions or worries and ask yourself if you are over-analyzing.
Failing to interrupt this thought pattern will only lead to more frustration and overwhelm.
Second, because anxiety is causing the paralysis, we have to work with our mind and body, not against it. We need to stimulate our vagus nerve, which regulates our nervous system. When the vagus nerve is activated, we can move freely, our breathing is slow, and we feel confident.
One way to activate the vagus nerve, and move out of high-anxiety and to a place of calm is by doing something small every day to stimulate your vagus nerve. Each of these things signals to the brain and nervous system: I am safe.
- Sing in the shower or on your drive to work
- Journal for 10 minutes
- Each morning 5 minutes of sunlight and meditation
- 10 minutes of breath work
- A nightly walk around the block
- 10 minutes of yoga
- 8 minutes of weight lifting
Now Promise yourself to do one of the above for 30 days. Here’s how:
- Make it something that takes no more than 10 minutes a day.
- Make it an activity that you (at least somewhat) enjoy.
- Make it something that can be easily put into your schedule.
- Keep the promise the same every day for 30 days.
Analysis paralysis doesn’t need to bog down your life. As with all forms of anxiety, the antidote is to do the opposite of what your anxious mind is telling you, run towards what you’re afraid of in order to find out that what you think will happen doesn’t.