Stop overthinking and stressing about things you can’t control

I’m the first to admit that I overthink and overanalyse. I often lie awake at night, replaying conversations in my mind, thinking: “I wonder what she meant by that” or “I wonder if I offended him by saying that”.

About a year ago, I attended a talk at my friend Dale’s house that made a profound impact on my life. It was by Mark Fraser Grant from a company called Beyond Coaching. Admittedly, I don’t often value coaching sessions but I was (and still am) in a place in my life where I’m trying to develop and find direction, and thought that Mark might have something I could grab onto.

I can’t remember everything that was said that day but I try to remind my overthinking, overanalysing self of these personal lessons:

BEING PRESENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEING AROUND

I used to be a working mom who often felt guilty about being away from my daughter.  I loved having a career and independence but getting home at 6pm meant I’d only see her briefly in the morning and before bed during weekdays.

But do you know what?  I think I had more quality time with her then than I do now as a work-from-home mom. Back then, when I was at home, I’d make a real attempt to give her my full attention, to be present.   I knew I only had 90 minutes available, so I’d sit with her, read to her and chat to her without distraction.  These days I spend the entire afternoon in the same space with her but often with less quality time.

While writing this I’m reminding myself that being present without distraction is what builds bonds, not being in the same room.  This goes for relationships with our partners too. I sometimes feel that Hubby and I only really catch up and talk when we’re away on holiday. Holidays are when we rediscover all the things we have in common. The rest of the time we’re on devices, trying to tick items off the to-do list and watching TV with dinner-trays.

The old cliché of quality over quantity time is so true.

be present

EMPTY YOUR MIND – LET IT GO

I made the Frozen theme song my anthem. I’m a natural “stresser” and agoniser. At this talk I learned to ask myself two questions when I start stressing about something:

What is the issue?  Identify what you’re preoccupied with.

Is there something I can do about it?

If my answer to the second question is “NO I can’t do anything about it”, then I need to Let It Go!  I try not to waste any energy, sleep or quality time with my friends and family as a result of it. I attempt to put the issue out of my mind so that I can stop being preoccupied and be present. Worrying about something I can’t control doesn’t benefit anyone. Lying awake thinking about the state of SA’s political affairs does nothing other than raise my cortisol levels.

If my answer to question two is “YES, there IS something I can do about this thing that is causing me stress”, then I need to act. Not acting results in more thinking, more stressing and more preoccupation. I find it can even result in self-loathing if I let things stew. If you hate your job, take action, see if you can find another position. Or speak to your boss about making some changes. Devise a plan to solve the issue. If it turns out the issue can’t be solved then learn to Let It Go and make the most of things. Stressing about it won’t help.

I recall that Mark received a question from our group on whether he was referring to “mindfulness”. He said that mindfulness was an unfortunate term but the essence was the same. You don’t want your mind “full”. Instead try to empty your mind of thoughts and stresses you can do nothing about so that you can truly be present. Being present will result in deeper relationships, better ideas and a healthier, more balanced life.

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