In this episode we look at:
Pressing Pause Podcast episode 57 Help! My life and mind are on a hamster wheel that never stops!
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers, brought to you by The Calm Mind Club where overthinkers can find calm, confidence and community.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I share ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to worry less and enjoy life more.
Welcome to episode 57 and today I’m addressing a question about feeling like you’re not in charge of your own life. So, this question comes from Candice, she says: ‘I don’t feel like I’m in control of my own life, it’s like I’m on a hamster wheel that I can’t get off. There’s always more stuff to do than I have time, someone always needs me or expects me to do something and what I want or need just doesn’t seem to matter. I’m on the go the whole time and I’ve got so much going on in my head. It’s like there’s a voice in my head constantly telling me what I have to do, telling me not to let anyone down or mess up and I worry a lot about what other people are thinking about me. Help, it never stops!’
First of all, thank you, Candice, for sharing how you feel because I know for absolute certainty that you’ve voiced what a lot of women are feeling. I hear this talked about in my coaching calls and in other conversations too. So you are definitely not the only one who feels like your life and your mind is in charge of you instead of the other way round.
Recognising that this is how you feel is a great first step. It’s really easy to go barrelling along with a super busy life, taking care of everyone, trying to please everyone and make them happy, doing all the things, putting up with feeling put upon and exhausted and strung out, and being used to life and your mind being a non-stop stress fest because that’s just how things are. And then one day, years down the line you realise that you’ve lost yourself. Somewhere in the midst of putting everyone else’s needs and wants ahead of your own, trying to live up to expectations, squashing yourself into a shape that the world around you says you need to fit into, you lost your spark, you stopped trusting in and believing yourself, you lost you.
So not only recognising that your life and mind have become a hamster wheel but also acknowledging that this is not what you want, that you need things to change, is fantastic because it means that now you can do something about it. It’d be marvellous if this self-awareness is all you needed and now everything will magically get easier and calmer but sadly life isn’t that simple. But, this first step of recognition is you starting to take back some control and that’s what you want.
I know that after having this realisation the next thing you’re likely to do is start beating yourself up about it. That voice in your head that’s constantly chattering on to you will start piping up with blame and criticism. How could you let this happen? You should stand up for yourself. You’re so selfish thinking about yourself like this. What is your problem? Your life is great, shame on you for feeling fed up, other people have it way worse than you, you know. This is your life, if you don’t like it it’s your own fault, no-one else is to blame. Stop whining and get on with it.
Wow. How to kick yourself when you’re down! Before you get really cross with the voice in your head and start having a go at it for having a go at you, that’s a whole vicious circle we don’t need, let’s consider for a moment why your inner critic is talking so loudly. It’s not because she hates you it’s because she’s trying to keep you safe. This is the status quo, your life may not feel good but it’s what you’re used to and so the idea that you may make changes scares the bejeezus out of your inner critic. Familiarity feels safe and right now your hectic, non-stop, pressurised, frazzled life feels safe to your mind, even though it really is super stressful, and addressing what you’re not happy with, potentially making changes feels unsafe. And so your mind, through your inner critic, is trying to convince you to not rock the boat, to not change the status quo and to keep everything as it is. Instead of seeing this as a way to make your life better, calmer and more enjoyable she sees it as dangerous as leaving the cave to go fight a bunch of tigers all on your own. But it isn’t. You’re just starting to look at how you’ve been going about your life and wondering if there’s a way you can live with less stress.
So I want you to reassure the voice in your head who’s speaking from a place of fear and who’s trying to keep you safe, that it’s okay. This is not a life or death situation, there are no tigers to fight, you’ve got this and she can take a backseat. Blaming yourself for how you feel is unfair and gets you nowhere. There are many contributing factors that have led to how your life looks and how you feel today including the lessons we learn and pressure we feel from society. On paper your life may look wonderful and there’s no denying that there are many people who are having a very tough time experiencing enormous challenges, but that doesn’t make your struggles any less real for you.
Continuing on your non-stop hamster wheel, trying to be all things to all people, all the while feeling strung out, doesn’t help anyone else who is struggling. You’ll actually be in a better position to be of help and service when you have energy and space in your brain and life, and your compassion and empathy hasn’t been exhausted by trying to live up to everyone’s expectations and demands. Everyone is born with the right to feel joy and fulfilment and passion and peace and that goes for you too.
So be kind to yourself. Imagine that it’s a good friend who feels just like you do and think about what you would say to her, how would you treat her? Then do that for yourself, talk that way to yourself.
When you’re so used to putting others’ needs ahead of your own, whether it’s your partner, your children, your parents, your friends, your work colleagues, it feels really hard to think about doing what you need or want. There are clear messages that society gives girls as they grow up about being kind and thoughtful and considerate and generous and we’re praised when we are all of those things to other people. But, and this is a message that many of us don’t hear so much, it is just as important to treat ourselves with kindness and consideration too. It doesn’t make you selfish, it doesn’t make you self-indulgent, it doesn’t mean you don’t care about other people if you factor in your own needs and desires along with those of the people around you. I’m not even saying to put yourself first, there doesn’t need to be a first and last here, it’s including what you need to be a happy, healthy person along with what your family and friends need.
So I want you to start to look at where you, your needs and your wants, feature in your life. What do you do that you enjoy, that you personally get great joy from? Where are you making time for what feels nourishing, restorative, energising for you? One client I worked with had a colour code system on the family calendar, her husband and each child had their own colour so you could easily see who was doing what, where and when. The system had been working well for quite a long time and then she realised, there was no colour for her. She wasn’t on the calendar at all.
Everyone else in the family had their activities and fun stuff marked on the calendar in their individual colours but because she was so busy making sure everyone else’s needs were being met she didn’t factor in her own. So, that was an action she took straight away, she chose her own colour and scheduled herself onto the calendar whether it was to go to a pilates class or meet a friend or sit in a café with a slice of cake and her book. The time to do these things didn’t magically appear, it took some figuring out, some conversations, but it was worth it because not only did she feel better for it – calmer, less frazzled, happier – her family reaped the benefit too and really noticed the positive change in her.
And this was just one action she took. This is one step you can take to start slowing down the hamster wheel, along with reassuring your inner critic and giving yourself the compassion you’d give to a friend who’s feeling the way you do right now.
Your life may feel like it’s owned and controlled by everyone else because you’re constantly on the go doing all the things that other people want, need and expect of you. Your mind may feel like it’s unstoppable with all the things you need to remember and the voice jabbering away at you. But you are strong, resourceful, capable and resilient, and you have more choices (I talk more about this in episode 55), more power and more say in your own life than you may think you do.
I hope this helps you get started, Candice and everyone listening who recognises the same feelings, to take the first steps to get off the hamster wheel and take back control of your own life.
Feeling like your life is running away from you and the real you has been lost somewhere is a common challenge my coaching clients are experiencing when they come to work with me. Everyone has their individual circumstances, there may be responsibilities like caring for parents as well as children to consider, work challenges and relationships with friends as well as the emotional labour that women have to juggle. So we look at your specific circumstances, your nuanced life, we talk through how you feel and what you want to feel and do, how you want to be. Together we find a way to start moving forward, step by step, in a way that feels right for you, that works for you in your life. This is what I love about working one to one, everything we do is tailor made for you, there’s no trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The days of you trying to squeeze yourself into a shape for someone else are over.
If you’d like to explore how one to one coaching with me could free you from the hamster wheel send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can message me on Instagram where I’m @gabrielletreanor. I’ll put the links in the show notes for this episode 57 too.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
Copyright ©2020 Gabrielle Treanor
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