Podcast episode 23 Why I won’t tell you to stop worrying
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m a writer and teacher specialising in overthinking and overworrying. Here I share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome, my little break is over and I am back with new episodes every Wednesday. I hope you are well and I’m very glad you’re here.
This is episode 23 and today I want to talk to you about why I won’t tell you to stop worrying. I realise this sounds like a strange thing to say on a podcast for overthinkers so let me explain why I say this.
When someone asks me what I do my usual reply is: I help overthinkers to worry less and enjoy life more. To worry less, not to stop worrying, I say that on purpose. That might sound odd to the person asking the question, maybe it sounds odd to you, surely the best thing would be to stop worrying altogether, not just worry less.
But this is the thing with overthinkers and people who worry more than they want to, it’s not something you can just stop. Switch it off. One moment you’re worrying and the next, poof, it’s gone. How many times has someone said to you ‘stop worrying’ and you’ve felt your teeth clench or your shoulders stiffen? If it was as easy as clicking your fingers wouldn’t we all do it?!
Not only is it annoying when someone tells us to just stop worrying, it also makes us feel like we’re doing something stupid, we’re being ridiculous and in the eyes of the other person what we’re doing is wrong and they think we should just stop.
To have someone belittle you for worrying, whether they mean to or not, just pours a whole heap of shame onto you when you already feel bad because you’re worrying. It is not helpful.
So, what am I saying, that worrying’s okay and you can just keep on worrying? No, not at all, everything I do is to help you to understand your worry, to take the fear and shame out of it, to empower you to free yourself from the chains of overworrying so you’re not tangled up in it when really you could be getting on with what’s happening in your life right now. I don’t do that by telling you to deny that you’re worrying for good reason.
Worry can be lumped in with other so called negative emotions and seen as something we want to get rid of, to eliminate from our lives. We don’t like negative feelings, they’re horrible and uncomfortable and we don’t want to feel them. The thing is, all emotions are valid and they all have a place in our lives. There are no real bad emotions, these are just ones that feel uncomfortable and that we’d prefer not to experience.
But, pushing a feeling away, pretending we don’t feel it doesn’t really help us and it can make things worse. You might feel a little relief in the short term if you squash it down hard enough but it will come back, plus you may then have the added fear of what you’ll do, how will you cope when that icky, uncomfortable, unwanted feeling returns.
While it may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re experiencing a negative emotion, sitting with the uncomfortable feeling can actually be the best thing to do. Accepting that you’re feeling worried, scared, upset or whatever it is you’re feeling takes away some of its power. Looking it in the face, saying ‘yep, right now my mind is spinning with a million what ifs’ can actually lessen the intensity of the icky feeling. For the exact reason that you’re facing up to it, you’re accepting it rather than pushing it away or staying locked in the centre of the thought whirlwind. And then, by practising self-compassion, by giving yourself a break and saying ‘this is horrible, I don’t like how this feels and it’s really hard to deal with’ and, crucially, not judging yourself for how you feel, lessens its hold over you even more.
A psychology professor by the name of Brett Ford at the University of Toronto and her colleagues carried out a series of studies and found that people who accept the negative emotions they’re experiencing, who didn’t fight them or judge themselves for feeling that way, were able to let go of those uncomfortable feelings more quickly.
I talk more in episode 18 about how to deal with difficult emotions so do have a listen to it and I’ll link to the episode in the show notes.
I know, from research and my own experience, that thinking positive and trying not to worry about anything and telling yourself everything’s fine and not to be silly doesn’t work. Wallpapering over our worry cracks or metaphorically shoving it down the back of the sofa doesn’t deal with our ingrained habit of overthinking in any kind of meaningful way that allows us to live life as we want to.
Learning to recognise when your worry is going into overdrive and what to do to help yourself to accept it, deal with it with self-compassion and release it, is how you can focus on what’s real and true in your life right now and the joy to be found therein. This is how you calm your mind, build your resilience, worry less and enjoy life more.
And this is what I share in these podcast episodes, in my courses, in my writing, in my weekly emails and now, in my new Facebook group. I’ve created a safe place where you can be yourself, you don’t need to apologise for being a worrier, for what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. I draw on my years of research and experience to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to worry less and enjoy your life more. We don’t deny the difficulties we’re experiencing, I won’t tell you to just stop worrying, and we look for the good stuff in life and shine a light on it.
If you’d like to come join me in the group I’d love to see you there. You can search for the Worry Less and Enjoy Life More with Gabrielle Treanor group in Facebook or follow the link that I’ll include in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com. There are a couple of questions to answer and some guidelines to keep the space a place we can all feel welcome, safe and comfortable. If this sounds like it feels right for you I’d love you to join me in the group.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.