Pressing Pause Podcast episode 30 The questions to ask yourself when you’re overthinking, part 1
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to 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. Now I know, because I asked and you told me, that a lot of you are already thinking about Christmas and you’re beginning to feel the stress levels rise as you think about all the things you should do, how you’re going to get everything done, how you’ll make everyone happy and how on earth will you do all of that without collapsing under the pressure before you get to the 25th of December.
So, I want to give you a heads up that next week, from Monday to Friday, I will be running a free 5 days of Christmas clarity challenge so you can start laying the groundwork for a calmer Christmas now. Each day of the challenge you’ll get an email and I’ll be live in the Facebook group talking about the topic of that day. To sign up to the free challenge and start laying the foundations for a Christmas you can really enjoy, go to gabrielletreanor.com/christmasclarity now or follow the link in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. It’s a free challenge designed to help you get some clarity and calm around Christmas and I would love you to join me.
Now, today’s episode 30 is the first of a two-parter. Over this and next week’s episode I’m going to share with you five powerful questions that you can ask yourself when your brain is spiralling off into overthinking and you want to calm the thought whirlwind. These questions are quite broad so they can be applied to all kinds of overthinking issues and I’ve found them helpful when my mind starts to go into overdrive. I use some of them, or more specific variations of them, with my clients in our coaching sessions too.
They’re not in any particular order and you don’t have to ask yourself all the questions, just whichever one or ones that feel most useful in that moment.
So, a great question to ask yourself when you’re getting caught up in your thoughts is ‘What story am I telling myself?’. Because we tell ourselves stories all the time. You can take a look someone gives you and turn it into a story about how they think you look a mess, your hair’s a right state, you should have put on some make-up, you clearly don’t have any style, no-one can take you seriously or find you attractive or value your opinion or want to spend time with you, you’re a joke and a failure.
Wow. Just wow. That is some story that you concocted within seconds of someone throwing a glance in your direction. This is just an example but we’ve all done this kind of thing, right? We can spin these stories so fast that we don’t even realise it’s happening until we’re in the thick of the thought whirlwind and feeling terrible because of it.
And there are plenty of other examples I could give, I’m pretty sure you can come up with lots yourself. Like the meaning you put into your friend not replying to your text quickly. Who defines quickly anyway? Or the thoughts you have when you wake up exhausted or your child throws a hissy fit in the supermarket or your partner doesn’t want a slice of your homemade cake. These are all stories that we construct to fill in the gaps where we don’t have information. We do this in life all the time and sometimes it’s helpful and a lot of time, for us overthinkers, it really isn’t.
So the next time you realise you’ve gone from hearing a comment to thinking something terrible is going to happen or that you’ve made a fool of yourself or no-one likes you or whatever it is, ask ‘what story am I telling myself?’. Challenge it, look for the evidence, not what you imagine or suppose or think is likely, but the actual evidence to back up the story. You’ll be surprised to discover how often there is no evidence, your mind has invented a story that has no basis in reality, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose and it’s a story you are free to disregard.
Don’t use the realisation that you’ve been telling yourself a story as an excuse to beat yourself up and berate yourself for doing so. As I said, we all do it, so give yourself a break, acknowledge that you’ve had this realisation which is a great step forward and be kind to yourself.
It can be tricky to recognise you’re in the midst of a story that you’ve fabricated, and it can feel hard to challenge it, so go gently and keep looking out for these unhelpful and untrue stories. The more you become aware of them the less of a grip they’ll have on you.
Okay, next question and this may be my favourite. It’s simple but really powerful because it allows you to gain a little distance from whatever is going on with you and how you’re feeling. The question is: ‘If my best friend was going through this, what would I say to her?’
The beauty of this question is that it gives you the opportunity to look at what you’re dealing with from a different perspective. Generally speaking we’re better at being kind to other people than to ourselves, at taking care of their needs more than our own. So by imagining it’s your best friend who’s going through this difficulty it allows you to tap into your caring, compassionate side and access the helpful, loving advice you would give her. Because if it’s someone you really care about who’s feeling super stressed or worried or upset you want to help them, take care of them, make suggestions for what they can do to feel better. But we’re not so good at doing that for ourselves.
So, ask yourself ‘If my best friend was going through this, what would I say to her?’ and really imagine you’re having that conversation. What would you do, what would you tell her? Then do that for yourself. Because what you would do for your friend is what you need to do for yourself. It’s what occurred to you in that moment, it’s what you felt would be most helpful and so it’s what’s right for you.
You can ask yourself this gem of a question any time you need to, whatever your struggle is. It could be that you’re worried about a meeting with your boss or that you won’t be able to sleep tonight. Perhaps you’re beating yourself up for missing an appointment or something you said to your partner. Maybe you’re going over and over what happened at the school gates or you’re imagining what could happen when you go to a friend’s party. Whatever is causing you to get stuck in overthinking, to feel overwhelmed or stressed out, ask yourself ‘If my best friend was going through this, what would I say to her?’ and do that for yourself.
I have three more questions to share with you in next week’s episode but in the meantime try out the two questions ‘What story am I telling myself?’ and ‘If my best friend was going through this, what would I say to her?’ when you catch yourself in an overthinking spiral. I’d love to hear how you get on so do email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can join the Facebook group, search for Worry less and enjoy life more group or follow the link in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.