• Dr. Matt Zakreski

Caught on a doorknob: the art of slowing down

Yesterday, I got my belt loop stuck on the door handle.

I got SO MAD. Seriously, I hate it when that happens. And as I was sitting there, a grown man stuck on the door to my basement office and railing at all that was unfair and unjust in the universe, I had a moment of clarity.

And that clarity has become this blog post.

First off, if you're not someone who wears pants/shorts/bottoms with belt loops, this doesn't happen often. (Though I've been told that this also happens to people who carry handbags). You basically need to be at the perfect height vis-a-vis the door, moving (too) close to the door, and not paying attention. Unsurprisingly, getting stuck on a door handle is much more likely to happen when we are stressed, rushed, and upset.

Then, of course, we get more stressed, rushed, and upset.

This fact brings me to my moment of clarity. I was carrying a bunch of things in my arms and (I'll admit it), in frustration, I dropped everything. My books and papers went everywhere. I may have even said some choice words. Once my hands were free, however, an interesting thing happened:

I suddenly felt much calmer.

I remembered an ACT exercise from grad school (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). If you have lots of things in your hands and you're trying to find one, it is actually easier to let things go (metaphor alert!!) than it is to try and solve the problem while you're holding on to everything.

So I let things go. And I saw them scatter across the floor, which was itself frustrating. But suddenly my hands were free. I was much more capable. I was able to take a breath and step back away from the door. I freed myself from the door and then I surprised myself.

I laughed.

Because, when you think about it, getting yourself stuck on a door handle is so absurd. And that absurdity can lend itself to rage (which is certainly reasonable) or to humor. And when I was able to let things go, I was able to find the humor in things. And when I was physically and emotionally lighter, I was able to do so in a way that felt authentic.

So what's the takeaway here? I think that we can look at getting your belt-loop or bag stuck on a door handle as a sign from the universe. That sign might be initially read as the universe hates us and is out to cause problems. But if we can sit with those feelings for a moment, then we might get that clarity: the universe is telling us to slow down.

So let's try to ssssllllllooooowwwwwww ddddoooowwwwwnnnnn

Slowing down is hard! We are all too busy, too stressed, and too overwhelmed. But when we keep going faster and faster, working harder and harder, we set ourselves up to fail. We cannot solve the problem of working too hard by working harder, just like I couldn't get myself unstuck from the door handle by pulling harder and harder. I had to take a step back and reassess before I moved forward. Once I did so, I felt better and then I did better... and that's not an accident.

Sometimes the universe gives us the message we need, not the one that we want. Slowing down may not be easy, it may not be what we want at the time, but it is often the most helpful message at that moment.

So before you get stuck on a door handle, take a look around at your life and ask yourself...

Why am I rushing? What am I feeling? What can I let go? What do I need right now?

If you slow down and answer those questions, you'll feel much better and then you'll do much better. You'll literally get unstuck!

#drmatt #mentalhealthmatters #slowdown

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