If you want to limit the level of stress and anxiety in your life, you need to get in the habit of closing the loop immediately. Here’s what I mean: When you learn about something you have to do or a problem you need to solve, it creates an open loop in your mind. You begin to think about the issue or problem, and it stays on your mind until you do something to resolve the issue.
Open Loops Cause Stress
If we don’t close the loop in a reasonable amount of time, we experience stress and anxiety. The open loop keeps going in our mind, taking up our head space. Even if we try to distract ourselves and do something different, there’s a part of our mind that is occupied by the open loop. This is why it’s important, as much as possible, to close the loop right away.
Be Cautious About When You Open Loops
There’s another side of this equation that is equally important: It’s critical NOT to create an open loop when you don’t have the time and energy to close the loop. Here’s a common example that many of us struggle with: Many people check their email several times per day. They might even have email notifications on their cell phone, so they get a ding each time they receive an email. Every new email you read opens a new loop in your mind. It might be something simple—you need to respond to the email. Or, it might be something complex—the email brings up a problem at work that you need to tackle. Either way, reading the email opens up a new loop in your mind.
The problem happens when we read a new email and open a new loop, but we don’t have the time and energy to close the loop. Maybe it’s the weekend, and we can’t solve the problem until we go into the office on Monday. The loop stays open all weekend, causing us stress and anxiety. Instead of relaxing and enjoying our weekend, we’re thinking about the issue we need to resolve.
Stay Off Email Until You Can Close the Loop
What’s the solution? Stay off email until you have the time and energy to tackle the issues that reading your email might bring up. The same principle applies to other areas of life, such as checking your phone messages. If you don’t have the time and energy to close the loop right now, don’t open it up in the first place. Wait until you do have the time and energy to close the loop, and only then open up your email.
Bottom line: The more you can get in the habit of only opening a loop when you can close it immediately, the better your mental health will be.