Eleven tips to stop spinning

by Brian on August 1, 2021

in Cancer,Health,Mindfulness

I never liked merry-go-rounds. They always seemed like the least worthwhile ride at the amusement park. Maybe that’s why carousels only warranted a lowly “A” ticket in the old Disneyland pricing scheme.

Merry-go-rounds don’t go anywhere. You don’t make progress like on a roller coaster or a racing ride. There’s no change of scenery, no thrilling dips. You just spin over and over until you get dizzy and you want to throw up.

I’ve been thinking about a different kind of merry-go-round lately – spinning when it comes to decision-making. 

Spinning sucks away our spirit as we get stuck, regurgitating the same indecisive conclusions over and over, until we are at last forced to move forward, one way or another, but not before we’ve inflicted unnecessary anguish on ourselves (and most likely our loving partners, too). 

This was exacerbated during our most recent trip to the U.S. There were so many opportunities for spinning: where to go, what to eat, who to see, the direct flight vs. the cheaper one with more layovers… the list seems endless in hindsight.

If spinning is an issue for you, too, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to shut it down and banish the psychological trauma that comes with it?

Here then are eleven tips to stop spinning in its tracks so you can blast off to Space Mountain instead of getting stuck in an endless loop at the Dumbo ride. 

1. Write it down. Making a pro and con chart can help you visualize – and resolve – what’s causing the spinning. You can also just write down your thoughts, freestyle. But be sure to put your list aside for a day so you can see if you feel the same way tomorrow.

2. Prioritize. You’re not going to get everything you want. That’s a truism in life as well as for specific decisions. So, decide: Is it more important to buy the fancier dishwasher or to save money? If you can’t have both, do you prefer better gas mileage or adaptive cruise control?

3. De-conflate. Have you inadvertently conflated two unconnected issues? If your physician has a sour bedside manner, is he nevertheless good at what he does – an excellent surgeon? There’s no reason to disqualify a professional based solely on his or her communication abilities. De-conflate skill from style to manage spinning and move forward. (If you’re developing a long-term relationship, the calculus may be different, and you may want to place people skills higher on the list.)

4. Is it peripheral? When my wife, Jody, and I were looking to book our Covid-19 tests prior to flying, we had to choose between going to the airport, which was cheaper but would eat up more time, or getting it done in town at a nominally higher price. Was it worth the hassle factor of getting to Ben-Gurion in order to save the equivalent of a couple of falafel sandwiches?

5. Can you confirm it? Do you have a source for the spinning thought you’re having? I often worry that, after agonizing over a decision to attend an event or make an appointment, it will be canceled at the last minute. Did I receive a call or message indicating that might be the case? Does the person I’m meeting have a reputation of canceling? No? Then move forward. 

6. Give power to your partner. Sometimes it can be helpful to let your partner make the decision. For control freaks (me included), that takes some serious willpower that you’re not going to second guess your spouse after the fact. Removing the burden entirely from your shoulders can minimize spinning.

7. Decide on a cut-off point. Researching options is important – I would not have been comfortable choosing a chemotherapy cocktail when I was treated for cancer without doing extensive due diligence. It’s OK to get a second or even a third opinion, but don’t keep running to specialists for a fourth, fifth or sixth one. How many different types of shoes should you consider when searching Zappos? How many USB thumb drives? 

8. Minimize conflict where possible. Conflict is not always avoidable, but you can pick your battles. Get into it with someone with whom you’re close. For individuals providing a service, turning the other cheek when confronted by something triggering can lead to less anxiety than if you’d engaged.

9. Don’t spin about the future. It’s one thing to get in a tizzy about something happening right now. It’s quite another to spin over an eventuality that hasn’t and may never occur. 

10. Thoroughness is a spectrum. Being thorough is usually a good thing. But when it goes too far, it can turn into spinning. This is not a “switch” you flip to go from either 100% thoroughness or 100% spinning. Rather, it’s a spectrum and it’s easy to almost imperceptibly slide to the dark side. Before slipping to anxiety, ask yourself: “Have I gone beyond being thorough?” If so, you still have time to gently course-correct.

11. Accept that spinning is a part of certain types of decision-making. You can’t shut down all spinning and, for really critical issues (choosing a college, making aliyah) or ones where you feel particularly helpless (healthcare, taking your car to the mechanic), spinning may simply be part of your decision-making process. Acceptance can reduce some of the frustration when you find yourself stuck. 

If all else fails, try your best to enjoy the ride. After all, even the worst Dumbo ride ends eventually.

I first shared my anti-spinning techniques at The Jerusalem Post.

Picture of merry-go-round in Italy from Ran Berkovich on Unsplash

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