‘I know when I go to that event next week that she is going be thinking…. about me’
‘I bet you he won’t text me back because he thinks…..’
Ahhh a day in the life of our minds ,eh? So often our minds can kick into overdrive and start to create totally fictitious stories about an event or situation that is coming up. When this happens, it can often leave us feeling overwhelmed or anxious in anticipation. Our mind is a such powerful tool that allows us to think, create and imagine. However, it can also use this creativity to come up with scenarios in our mind that are not helpful at all!!
Why does my mind create these stories?
- It will often be doing it as a protective mechanism, especially if there are past hurts associated with this person/situation.
- It can also be a way of reinforcing habits and beliefs that you don’t even know you have. For example, when I started dating my husband in 2020, I was blown at how my mind could instantly start thinking of negative stories instantly. ‘He’s definitely going to cancel’ or ‘I won’t here from him again’. It made me realise how much my old hurts had created these beliefs around dating.
- Sometimes our minds creates these stories as a way to express emotions that we struggle to say out loud. How many times have you noticed your mind revisiting a past situation where you go through what you could or ‘should’ have said?’. Often these stories are an indication of some frustration you have feeling deep down or that you may feel your needs have not been met.
- Our society puts alot of expectations and ‘rules’ on how we should do things. Christmas is a great example of this, in particular the idea of the picture perfect family gathering. We end up with these high expectations of what it ‘should’ be like. The reality for most people is nothing like the movies! However our mind is exposed to some many images of what it should look like that the real life experience can seem pretty frustrating and a let down.
How can I change these stories?
- Taking time to reflect. The knowing is in the stillness. If you have an event/situation coming up that has the potential to be challenging, give yourself some quiet time before and after to just sit with your thoughts.
- Take a birds eye view. You are not your thoughts. You don’t have to believe or work through every thought you have. Instead get into the role of observer. I like to imagine myself floating about my mind when I feel a ‘imaginative story’ coming along. I don’t have to sort out every thought. I can let them float away
- Focus on how do you want to feel. When the stories start to kick in and you are in that observer role, focus on how do you want to feel. This will help the mind let go of the obsessive storyline and the thoughts that no longer serve you. Remind yourself of how you want to feel and what you can do to move closer to that emotion and out of anxiety and worry
- Choose curiosity over judgement. This can be a real challenge. Often these stories creep in because not only are we judging others but deep down we are highly critical of ourselves and who we are. Let go of the harsh criticism and instead think ‘ isn’t that interesting that the minute I heard about X, I started to think…’
What should I do if my mind starts to create a story?
The great thing is that most of us recognise when our mind is starting to spiral with a story, so the following 3 steps can really help bring your mind back to a state of calm.
- RECOGNISE: Notice when your mind is creating a story. Acknowledge that this is simply your mind trying to protect you or unpack a situation. Remember you are not your thoughts. Get into that bird’s eye view of the situation.
- REASSURE: Start by taking some slow deep breaths. Tell yourself that you are safe. Doing some breath work is a great way to soothe the mind and body, especially if the story is triggering a physical reaction in your body. During this stage of breathing, I will often repeat to myself ‘I am safe and loved’ numerous times to calm the anxious feelings
- REALIGN; Now that you have noticed the situation and taken a moment to create some calmness in your mind, bring yourself back to your goal/higher purpose/vision. I like to remind myself that ‘everything is always working out for me’ or ‘I let go of this story. It does not serve me and who I am now’.
Having a short 3 step process; like the 3R’s can be very helpful when those stories that to pop into our mind. Repeated practice can help your body and mind become less attached and impacted by these thoughts as you become more self-aware. Remember our thoughts create the feelings. These feeling than inspire the actions we take and the results we see in our life.