Pressing Pause Podcast episode 24 When real life lets you down
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 to episode 24. I want to begin by letting you know that Be Here Now, my longest-running course all about how to apply mindfulness in practical, doable ways that make a really positive difference to your life on a daily basis, is open to join now. If you’re feeling weighed down by overthinking and worry, if you want to feel like you’re living your life right now, not as if days and weeks are flashing by, if you want practical, achievable tools and actions that work in your unique busy life to unstick you from your whirring, overthinking mind and allow you to feel more calm, contentment and joy on a daily basis, Be Here Now is for you. I have a special early bird offer available at the moment with £50 off.
Be Here Now is a five-week-long course, you get access to the online classroom as well as membership of the private course Facebook group, you have the option to listen to as well as read all the course content, there are worksheets, meditations and we’ll have weekly live sessions in the private group. You can find out all about Be Here Now, and join, on my website gabrielletreanor.com and I’ll include a link to the course page in the show notes.
I’m so looking forward to sharing how mindfulness can be applied in everyday life to make a real and lasting difference to how you live your life with less overthinking and more ease and joy. I would love for you to join me.
So, in this episode 24, I’m talking about what happens and what we can do when what we think life is going to be like doesn’t match up with what life is actually like.
A lot of the worry, the stress and the anguish that we feel is created by our experience of life not matching up to our expectations. We imagine things are going to be a certain way, we expect a scenario to play out as we imagine, for life to develop as we want it to, and when it doesn't turn out like that (which happens all the time) we feel upset, angry, irritated, disappointed or bewildered.
The simple act of wondering if our experience is going to match our expectation is enough to get our overthinking brains operating in hyperdrive.
And this mismatch creates so much stress. We fight it, wishing and willing and hoping things to be different. For reality to be what we imagined and wanted and expected it to be. Even when we know that this is how things are, that what we planned for isn’t happening, that our expectations aren't being met, we rail against it, clinging on to how life should be, going over and over what went wrong or how things changed, and lamenting how unfair it is that life isn't as we want it to be.
Ed Halliwell says the tension between our experience and our expectation is stress, and we come up against this all the time, in tiny and enormous moments in our lives. The disappointment you feel when a day out gets rained off, and the shock and pain you feel when a loved one gets bad news from the doctor, are not comparable but the feelings are real and we feel stressed by them. We face situations where reality fails to match up to our expectation and our hopes are dashed all the time. Which means we can feel this stress all the time too. Learning how to deal with this mismatch builds our resilience which makes us better able to cope when life takes a twist in the future.
So how do we manage the stress caused by life not going as we expect?
The first step is to realise that the root of this stress isn't what's happening, or not, it's our reaction to it. This might sound odd so bear with me. If you lose the house of your dreams that's pretty stressful and you wouldn't be stressed if everything had gone smoothly and the house was yours. That’s actually your expectation talking. You expect that’s what would happen, but you don't actually know it for certain. Until we're experiencing it we can't know for sure that anything in life is going to be as expect it. We might be really convinced of it but we don't know it for a fact.
Sticking with the house example, you expected to complete the purchase of your new home and now that's not happening. You feel sad, disappointed, cross and really stressed out because of all the knock-on effects to the rest of your life that this is going to cause. I remember very clearly, years ago when we wanted to move from London to Surrey, feeling so upset and disappointed because our house purchase had fallen through.
This is our experience and our reaction to it hurts. It's our response – how we deal with this reality that doesn't match our expectation – that makes us feel stressed. We have a say in how we feel, I know that can be hard to believe sometimes but, really, we do and we can choose how we deal with this new situation we find ourselves in. Continuing to fight against reality, when we're unable to change it, just keeps us stuck in the stress, and stops us moving forward. We can acknowledge that this is not what we want, that we feel cheated and angry and upset, and that this is really tough for us to deal with. I talk more about dealing with difficult emotions in episode 18. There's no point in pretending everything's rosy when it's not, denying how we feel is not a good idea.
We can't control the situation or the people involved (however much we might want to) so what do we have power over? What we do next.
We can choose to let go of our expectation. No-one can keep us tied to it or release us from it but ourselves. Depending on the situation it can be painful to make that admission and to say goodbye to a hope we held so we need to be kind to ourselves as we do it. We need to give ourselves compassion, just as we would with a friend who was feeling this way. It may take time, it’s not a quick fix, the period of adjustment is relatable to the circumstances and the impact it has on us.
And then, when we're ready, we decide how we're going to deal with this reality we find ourselves in. It may be that we make new plans or that we take a break and do nothing. We may not be able to see a clear path forwards so it could be a case of figuring out the first step only.
What's important is that we’ve recognised that our experience has failed to match up to our expectation, we've acknowledged how we feel, we've chosen to let go of what we hoped, assumed or expected, and we are dealing with the reality of life as it is right now. And by doing so we reduce the tension and lower the stress we feel.
This process applies to any moment, however big or small, where our experience doesn't meet our expectation. It isn't easy, it's not a magic wand to wave and make everything better. But practising it with the smaller disappointments in life will help you to build your awareness of this tension so you can recognise when the mismatch is causing you stress, drop your expectation and deal with your experience as it is.
And in case you’re wondering, we went ahead with the sale of our London flat, moved into a rented place in Surrey, and then found and bought a house that we loved and lived very happily in for seven years before we moved to Wales.
So, let me know what strikes a chord in this episode and I’d love to hear if you put my suggestions into practice so email me firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me in my free Facebook group. Search for Worry Less and Enjoy Life More with Gabrielle Treanor on Facebook, I’ll link to it in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast too, and come join me there. You can also find me on Instagram as @gabrielletreanor.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.