I should write some new year’s resolutions…
I should drink more water, eat less chocolate and exercise more…
I should have dealt with that situation better…
Who is telling you that you should do all these things?
Usually it’s that niggling voice in the back of your head. That one that says you’re not doing things right, that you could be better, that you’re to blame for everything you’re not achieving or are responsible for whatever is going wrong.
I know that voice.
It pushes you down and pressures you into feeling like you’re not doing enough or not meeting your own expectations. You always feel disappointed in yourself, overwhelmed by what needs doing and paralysed by the fear of what to do next.
I’ve always been an overthinker. I suffer with anxiety, particularly around my children’s allergies and asthma, and this was exacerbated after I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder following my daughter’s difficult birth. I was referred for cognitive behavioural therapy and although it didn’t help completely, it did help me realise I can change the way I think about things.
So, whether that voice is talking to you about the little things like how you should really be cleaning the kitchen, or worrying you with the bigger thoughts like how you should have dealt with your child’s medical condition differently, you don’t need to listen to it.
But what can you do instead?
I have chosen to replace it with two other options:
“I NEED to do it”
“I WANT to do it”
If I don’t need to do something or I don’t want to do it, then there is no reason why it has to get done.
There is no ‘should’. I need to or I want to. That’s it.
This small realisation has made a massive difference to my thought processes.
So, I ask myself: Do I need to do this?
If the answer is yes then I can make a plan. I am a list maker and setting deadlines or prioritising tasks helps me feel in control. If it is a big need (eg. I need to have a clearer action plan for handling different types of allergic reaction) then I will try to break it down in to smaller manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
If I don’t need to do it I ask: Do I want to do it?
If I want to eat that last chocolate and there is no big need standing in my way (eg. I need to lose weight) then I do it. If it’s something bigger – I want to get a flatter tummy, make more money or go on another adventure abroad before J starts school – then I can start setting out what I need to do to make it happen.
Letting go of feeling like I shouldor shouldn’t do things is very freeing and has helped me feel more relaxed and in control. It is in an ongoing process and I still overthink, I still get anxious and I still think about things I should have done differently in past situations.
But it gives me a way to refocus and challenge my thinking.
So, the next time you start worrying about what you should be doing, stop yourself and ask: