Episode 148: Best Bits of 2022: Part 2: Stress and Worry
The stress and worry we felt during the pandemic didn’t disappear in 2022. As medical practitioners, having a myriad of problems and uncertainties on our plate has simply become part of the job. But after over a hundred episodes, our conversations here at You Are Not A Frog have shown that we can make choices that help us to cope with and even overcome stress, anxiety and worry.
Rachel and our guests have shared valuable insights into how we can all take control of our lives. Let us wrap up another busy year by rediscovering the best bits of our podcast episodes on stress and worry. We revisit our favourite conversations on breaking the anxiety cycle, doubts and fears, and the power of ‘f**k it’.
Happy Holidays, dear listeners! Let’s end this year and start 2023 right by learning how to beat burnout and work happier.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
Understand that your stresses, fears, and doubts are valid.
- Rediscover tips and tricks for living a calmer and happier life.
- Recount simple techniques for dealing with work-related worries.
[02:01] Episode 119: Dealing with Stress and Worry
- Consider yourself a bus driver, and your concerns are the passengers.
- The older version of CBT would tell you to ‘stop the bus’ and rationalise the situation. But this also means you’re not driving and going on with your day.
[03:37] ‘The problem is that you could stop and you could spend some time arguing with the thoughts, rationalising them, but all the time you’re doing that you’re not driving. You’re not focusing on getting on with your day and driving the bus.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
- GROW stands for Guide, Ready for Action, Observe Your Surroundings, and Wise Mind. These steps can help you refocus your attention to the present moment.
- What is the important thing that matters to you right now?
- It is easier to know what to do if you can identify your experience.
- Your worries do not simply disappear. Instead, you can concentrate on the present situation.
[09:23] Breaking the Anxiety Cycle
- Anxiety is not a problem that you can solve cognitively. Thinking about it keeps you trapped in a cycle of worry.
- Rather than trying to fix your negative feelings and emotions, it is sometimes better to pause.
- Be aware of your surroundings and emotions.
[09:30] ‘When people are in high levels of anxiety . . . our cognitive processing goes all skewwhiff. We’re much less logical, and our thinking patterns are much less rational. Sometimes it’s about creating a pause, rather than trying to fix it cognitively.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[12:21] Episode 106: Worrying Is Not Caring
- It’s okay to acknowledge your problems.
- It’s easier to be worried because it forces you to act. However, there are some things you can’t control.
- Worrying can sometimes indicate the presence of underlying emotions.
- Is there something else going on that you’re not allowing yourself to feel or pay attention to?
[13:58] ‘It can sometimes be easier to get worried. Because worry is like an active emotion, right? It gets us juiced up; it gets us active that we can do something about it. We think we can do something about it. Often . . . we can’t, because it’s not in our control.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[15:30] Learn to Let Go
- You can care about the outcome of something while still letting it go.
- Consider whether it is a genuine problem. If it is, come up with a solution. If not, try other methods to stop worrying.
- Set aside a time during the day or week to worry about things.
[15:44] ‘We can care about the outcome of something but still let go of it.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[18:14] Episode 105: Don’t Believe All Your Thoughts
- Everyone experiences their thought system at the moment.
- Different perspectives on the same situation result in different reactions and behaviours.
- Our thoughts spin a tale of problems created by our mind. The less we pay attention to it, the less it’s there.
[21:32] ‘There’s no other way to experience a problem than in the narrative in our heads.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[23:53] When Your Doubts and Fears are Valid
- Your fears are valid. Your brain is constantly scanning your surroundings to detect threats or danger.
- Take a moment to reflect on your thoughts and experiences during stressful situations.
- Calmness will allow you to deal with problems more effectively.
[28:14] The Default State
- Our default state is one of calmness.
- Our mental state is like water. When you throw stones into it, ripples form and then fade away. The situation will worsen if you try to remove the ripples.
- The first step in dealing with stress is to recognise it. Stop amusing yourself with your thoughts.
- Problem solving is hampered by our desire to entertain our thoughts.
[31:59] Finding Calmness
- There is no such thing as a dreadful day.
- Only the present moment is available to us.
[33:14] Episode 130: The Power of “F**k It’
- Modern spirituality teaches us to let go of attachments and go with the flow.
- Saying ‘fuck it’ has the same effect as practising meditation — you’re letting go.
- The phrase is a Western interpretation of Eastern philosophies.
- Swearing engages our right brain, which is more relaxed, playful, and uninhibited.
[37:08] Thinking Is the Problem
- You cannot overcome stress with logic. Thinking is frequently the problem.
- Our minds create much of our stress.
- When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to look at problems from a different angle. Then you can find the answers you seek.
[37:18] ‘You can’t deal with anxiety, stress, and everything else by thinking it through. Because thinking is the problem.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[41:42] Release All Attachments
- Allow yourself to be detached from outcomes and their meanings.
- Worrying takes your attention away from more important matters.
[42:47] ‘“F**k it” partly is about “why are you taking up so much energy worrying about [things that don’t matter so much]”. If you’re gonna worry, worry about the shit that matters. – Click Here To Tweet This
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Rachel Morris: It’s been a long year, but hopefully, You are Not a Frog has been a bit of light relief for you and giving you some helpful hints and tips to make life at work that little bit better. We’ve loved every single one of our guests this year, and judging by the volume of wonderful emails we’ve received and the conversations I’ve had with people at talks and workshops, so have you. So I thought I’d put together the best bits from some of my favorite conversations this year, and some of the most listened to episodes.
We’ll be back in the new year with more interviews, hints, tips and life hacks to help you beat burnout and work happier. This one’s about stress and worry. Now, there is some swearing in the last section. You have been warned. Right, if you’re a doctor who could do with more joy and less stress in 2023, join me for a free online anti-challenge in January. Why are we calling this an anti-challenge?
Well, everyday we’re going to share a tiny activity that will actually make your life a lot less challenging. If you know you often put your own well-being last, join us to connect to other doctors, get brilliant tips to help you make time for yourself and have the chance to win fun prizes and goodies. We start on January the third, and you can sign up now at the link in the show notes, oh, and it’s open to all doctors so invite your colleagues too.
First, we’ve got Dr. Lee David talking about her new book 10 Minutes to Better Mental Health in Episode 119.
Lee David: So we have this really lovely analogy that I use quite a bit, and I think it’s in the book, which is if we imagine you’re a GP, let’s do this based on adults, because I know a lot of our listeners are going to be medics. Actually, if we can apply it for ourselves, we can then apply it for our families or our patients who are young people as well. So if you imagine you’re, Rachel, the driver of the bus.
You’re a GP, and you got to drive your bus, get the patients on, get them off. So you get there in the morning, and there’s a big long queue of patients at the bus stop. They’re all waiting to get on. They all take ages to get on the bus, and then they’re sort of wrestling about it. You have to drive this bus through a lot of traffic. You have to cross lanes. You are an amazing bus driver who has to make decisions about where to go, not crash the bus, think about what the patients’ need, where they need to go, and you have to do all of that whilst you’re driving.
So now if you then stop at the next stop, and who gets on your bus, it’s all your worry thoughts. So the worry thoughts other than next in line at the bus stop, the old version of CBT would be, stop the bus and have an argument with a worry thoughts, have a decision, decide, stop bothering me because the worry thoughts start saying, you might crash. Be careful. Oh, have you gone the wrong way? Or don’t hit that, don’t go there. Be careful.
Or do you think you should go around the roundabout three times because you don’t want to miss your exit? So the worry thoughts are kind of tapping you on the shoulder, and they’re really disruptive. So the problem is that you could stop, and you could spend some time arguing with the thoughts, rationalizing them, but all the time you’re doing that, you’re not driving. You’re not focusing on getting on with your day and driving the bus.
So a more act-based approach would be to say, okay, the worry thoughts are on the bus. What can I do about it? So I’m not going to argue with them. If I try and push them off the bus, they just jump back on at the back anyway, because my worries never go away. They can always find a way back in. So I’m just going to bring my attention, so you could do the four steps here actually.
So choose for guide and you think where is important for me to be going right now. What is the important thing that matters to me at this moment? Where do I want to drive to? Supposing with the driving analogy, I really want to drive to the cinema because actually I want to go and watch a movie, or I want to drive this patient to the hospital because they’re quite poorly. I really need to pay attention to getting in there, so I need to focus on that.
So we use our guide, then ready for action. Okay, well, I’m going to actually focus on taking actions that involve driving. I’m going to bring my attention to this open and observe. I’m going to bring my attention to, say, my hands on the steering wheel. I’m going to notice the colors in the road ahead of me. I’m going to listen to the sounds. Notice my seat on the chair. I’m just going to be aware that I’m driving.
I’ve also got a lot of thoughts and worries, but my attention, I’m going to bring it back away from the worries and say to the worries look, sorry, mate, but I’m busy. I’m driving right now, and this is the most important thing I’m going to do. If you keep focusing on that, then eventually they actually get a bit bored, and they go and sit down at the back of the bus and kind of stop bothering you.
Then, W is wise mind, and that’s your perspective, which means reflecting on that worry is not really getting things out of proportion. It’s not helping me with my driving to pay attention to the worry or to be looking behind me, while I should be looking at the road and looking while I’m driving. So actually, what makes sense is for me to focus on driving and actually, the other thing that I have to remember is, okay, if I take a breath, I really care about working and I care about how I practice as a GP.
So it really matters that I’m really focused and so on. Actually, that’s what’s important to me. So yeah, I’m going to bring my kind of reflective perspective on to how to deal with this situation and how to drive safely. So you can bring those four steps into just dealing with worry there without necessarily just, oh, I need to change all the thoughts. So I don’t know if that kind of illustrates the difference.
Rachel: That’s really helpful. Because I know that in the past, when I’ve had some, I guess used to be called warped thoughts or maybe still still called warped thoughts, trying to argue yourself out, it sometimes works. Actually, you look at them, is that truth? People always actually like that. Nobody loved me or things like that. Actually some of them, you can’t argue with and the more you argue with, the more they come back.
So that idea of just looking at and going, is that helpful or not? It’s not particularly. I’m not going to try and argue it away, but I’ll focus on something different. That is a lot more logical, really. You can see how that would work better than just trying to get rid of every single difficult thought which you can’t. If something’s really bothering you, no matter how much you try and argue it away, it just won’t go, will it?
Lee: No. Exactly, and I’ve definitely found that the kind of health professionals that I work with, there’s a little bit of a tendency to quite an obsessional focus type of mindset where you can quite easily get stuck in your thoughts, because people tend to be very cognitive and very thoughtful. Often their children are the same, because obviously, our genetics means that our children often very similar.
So it can be quite difficult to step out of these thoughts, and it’s worth remembering that that’s a huge quality, that attention and focus is what allows us to be doctors, for example. It’s what allowed us to pass exams, to achieve everything we have done, and it’s a really amazing quality that we can be proud of. But that skill that we use focus and attention, which helps you perhaps to solve a clinical problem, it’s very difficult.
It doesn’t work as well if your problem is I’ve got difficult feelings. Then actually, problem solving cognitively doesn’t necessarily fix feeling anxious or feeling irritable. It’s much better with problem solving. Actually, feeling anxious isn’t a problem that you can cognitively solve, and so you get stuck in a loop where you’re worrying. You’re trying to work your way out of anxiety, but actually, cognitive processing doesn’t fix an emotion. It’s like apples and pears, so they can’t really relate to one another. Does that make sense?
Rachel: Totally. So, I have a few friends who are doctors and do suffer quite badly from anxiety, and they get very anxious about being anxious because like, well, I’ve tried everything I can do to fix it. I’ve tried doing this and this and this, and that’s not fixing it. In the past, when I’ve had an issue, yeah, I’ve cognitively thought my way out of it, and I’ve solved it. But yeah, you’re right. You’re using the wrong tool to solve the problem.
This is a screw and you’re using a hammer, and the hammer won’t work for a screw. But the way we’ve been trained is just to use that logical left brain thinking the whole time to solve things, and then we try and apply that to our own mental health and our own well being. Then surprise, surprise, it doesn’t work.
Lee: Exactly, and the thing is the higher the emotion, the less the tool fits, because when people are in high levels of anxiety or they’re really angry or they’re feeling very low, then actually, our cognitive processing goes all skew whiff. Actually, we’re much less logical and our thinking patterns are much less, kind of, rational. So sometimes it’s about creating a pause, rather than trying to fix it cognitively, when our cognitive tools that are actually offline anyway.
They’re not particularly effective at that point. So it’d be back to the O step of the grow, where you just take a little bit of time out, maybe going for a walk, maybe doing a bit of mini mindfulness, where you move your body and you just notice what it feels like to be sitting on the chair or stretching your arms up. I often get people to say, just tell me a color, you can see, and that I say, oh, I can see a green pen and a green cup and a blue bottle and a blue book.
I can say, what can you hear in the background, what’s the quietest sound and the loudest sound. Maybe I can hear the wind, and I can hear some cars. You’re stepping out of cognitive processing. It’s not avoidance, but it’s just recognition that whilst my thinking brain is going on, at the same time, I’m also hearing. I’m seeing and feeling physically, so I use movement. I think with young people in particular, physical movements are really helpful.
So I would actually sometimes get the adolescents in my therapy room, like up and running on the spot, because it creates physical sensations that you can actually more easily recognise if you exaggerate it. So you take big steps or stretch your body arms at wide and just really feel that and think, okay, well, my shoulders don’t feel stressed. They’re just stretching. My feet don’t feel stress. My toes, I’m actually okay, right now.
I know I’m still really angry, and I can acknowledge that it’s true, but there are parts of my body that don’t. So you can kind of rest in the knowledge that there’s bits that actually there’s much more to your experience and that one high level emotion, and that kind of it’s like grounding. If there’s a storm, then you sometimes need to go to ground for a little bit of time, let the storm pass, and only then do you go back to it.
That’s why W, wise mind is the last one of the steps because actually, you often need to do a lot of stuff to stabilize and kind of ground yourself before you even think about getting a wise perspective or trying to look for balance, unless we’re in a mental kind of place where we’re able to draw on our prefrontal cortex and that goes offline when we’re stressed and anxious. So that has to be back online before you can even consider using cognitive strategies. So it’s quite late actually in the process.
Rachel: Here’s Dr. Caroline Walker from Episode 106 explaining the difference between caring about something and worrying about something.
Caroline Walker: Actually, there’s a difference between worrying about something and caring about it. So I think it’s okay to wish it was sunny, when it’s raining. It’s okay to care whether the weather is nice or not. There’s a difference in caring about it and worrying about it. So I think sometimes if we can acknowledge to ourselves, yeah, there’s this terrible things going on, right, we’ve got an awful pandemic. We’ve got staff shortages.
There’s too much work. We’re under-resourced. People are tired, anxious, uncertain about the future. All of that is real, and it’s okay to feel a bit scared, a bit sad. Any of those emotions that might be coming up for you, they’re all okay, so acknowledge them, allow a bit of space for them. Sometimes I find we worry and get anxious, when actually there’s another emotion going on that we’re not paying attention to. I think at the moment, we’re still grieving a lot.
We’re still quite sad about the loss of the life we were living, the loss of our security and our ability to make plans and trust that they were going to happen. Now, we’ve had lots of conversations this week with doctors and healthcare workers who maybe got a holiday coming up, and they’re still not quite sure if it’s going to go ahead or not. We’ve never had to live like that, really, before in our society.
Some societies have, but we’ve been very fortunate to live a life where things have been pretty predictable, relatively secure, and that still isn’t the case. I think that leaves us feeling a bit unsettled. It leaves us feeling quite sad. Those are difficult emotions to sit with. So actually, it can sometimes be easier to then get worried, because worry is like an active emotion, right, kind of gets us juiced up. It gets it’s active that we can do something about it. We think we can do something about it. Often, as we’ve just alluded to, we can’t because it’s not in our control.
Rachel: That’s so helpful. Though, yes, it’s a lot easier for us to admit to being worried about something than to be sad, and I think anger is very like that as well. I think sometimes if I feel undervalued or unappreciated or unloved and I feel sad about that, I’ll feel angry. Anger, not sadness, because sadness shows a lot of vulnerability, doesn’t it?
Caroline: Yeah. Well, maybe if we’re a bit embarrassed or a little bit ashamed about something like I get this around my parenting quite a lot. If I’ve missed something or not noticed something and then it’s pointed out to me, I’m like, oh, cringe. So I start to worry and get anxious, and it’s as I say, it’s an easier emotion. I know it’s not pleasant emotion to be anxious and worried but it’s slightly easier I think than some of the others.
Yeah, sometimes it’s worth thinking if there’s something else going on here that I’m not allowing myself to feel or pay attention to.
Rachel: That’s really helpful that there is a difference between caring and worrying because I do struggle with this idea of, and we teach this, don’t we, that everything outside your center path just got to accept. It’s really hard to accept it, and I think I’ve always thought that accepting it is just dismissing it, not caring. Actually, it’s not that. You can deeply care about it.
Caroline: Absolutely, you can care about climate change, but also have an acceptance around the limits around how much impact you might personally have around it. This is something I learned in my addiction recovery, actually, in my own personal recovery around addictions that we can care about the outcome of something, but still let go of it. So if I ask somebody to do something for me, I can care about whether they say yes or no, but ultimately, it’s not.
It’s not my responsibility, whether they say yes or no or not. It’s not in my control whether they say yes or no or not. If they say yes, brilliant, I’m going to be happy. If they say no, I’m going to be disappointed or sad or angry, or those other emotions will come up. So, yeah, we can still care about stuff, but let go of the outcome.
Rachel: That’s so important, because as you were saying with the driving. If you were driving along, you would care, you care about the fact you’re going to have an accident or not. Nobody wants to have an accident. But if you’re worried about it, conversely, the worry does the exact opposite of what it should do. The bit of worry to start off with helpful seatbelt goes o, but the more you worry, the more anxious you get you.
You go into your fight flight or freeze zone. You’ve got adrenaline racing around you in a sympathetic zone. You can’t think straight. You’re much more likely to crash.
Caroline: This is where something like a worry tree, and can be very helpful. So this is where you might ask yourself a simple question like, is this a real problem? Yes or No? If it’s a real problem, great, you go down the problem solving route. So if I get in my car, I say, oh, I might crash my car. Is that a real problem? Yeah, I might crash my car. It’s kind of real. What can I do about that? I put my seatbelt on. Okay. So I’ve taken action. I’ve kind of addressed the worry.
If the answer is, is this a real problem? No, it’s not a real problem, then you’re looking at other techniques, like worry time, that can be quite helpful. So that’s where you would set aside a time in the day or time in the week, when you’re going to specifically worry about things, might sound a bit strange and a bit fuzzy, but it really does work for a lot of people. What that does is it acknowledges this is something I want to worry about.
It’s worrying to me, it means something to me, I do want to give it some time and attention, but don’t let it take over my day. So I’m going to plan it, say, six o’clock tonight for 20 minutes. That was my worry time, that’s when I’m gonna think about it. Then when you get to six o’clock, you can worry as much as you like for those 20 minutes. Yeah. Often what happens when you get there is actually you’re not that worried about it anymore, and sometimes you are, but you’ve got your 20 minutes, right, and it hasn’t ruined your whole day.
It just manages your worries. This is one of those techniques, which says, worrying is normal. Let’s accept it’s going to happen, let’s kind of take a little bit of control and manage it, manage how we’re going to worry.
Rachel: Now, here’s Dr. Giles Croft in Episode 105 with his take on why we can’t necessarily believe all our thoughts.
Giles Croft: So when I say everyone works in exactly the same way, every single one of us is experiencing our thought system in the moment.
Giles: In terms of behavior, we’re always going to do what makes sense, given our understanding of that one simple fact. Now, if we and so our behavior and we’ll see changes in ourselves as well, we’re fluctuating because our moods fluctuate all the time. When we’re in a low mood, we tend to believe our thinking. We tend to really invest in it. We identify it. We think it’s us, and we take it seriously.
So our behavior come from that place. When we’re in a much more lighthearted mood, we’re not taking off thinking seriously at all, and we’re operating from that default place of peace of mind, calm, wisdom, that’s when we’re actually connected to good ideas and creativity and wisdom and compassion. All of that stuff’s always there because that’s part of our connection to life and our connection to others. It’s only ever getting invested in that little left brain narrative.
Blah blah blah blah blah this means this, this means that, I’m this, I’m that, they mean that, this is, this is, going on duh, duh, duh, duh, constantly, it’s what it is to be human. It’s only ever so but the actual mechanism by which we experience life is exactly the same. So the difference between your friend who doesn’t get stressed about stuff is that it simply doesn’t make sense to attach to that narrative that’s going on.
Whether or not that’s something that he seen, I mean, for me, I know I just do better in life when I don’t attach to the jibber jabber in my head. It’s like I’ve seen through it. I’ve seen through its illusion. It’s not truth at all.
Rachel: Do you think he’s having the same jibber jabber in his head, and he’s not attaching to it?
Giles: I think you’ve got kids, haven’t you? So when there’s some bad behavior going on, we don’t tend to reinforce it to me, do we? When the light of attention is no longer on that bad behavior, then it tends to die out. From what I’ve seen with myself and clients is, the less attention we pay to it, the less it’s there. I’m human, so I fall for it, especially if I’m tired or hungry or something. It’s more likely that I’m going to fall for it.
But just knowing, I guess, just knowing deep down that that’s the way it works, and that even though it really, really looks like I’ve got a whole load of problems that essentially all problems are created by the mind. All problems are created by this narrative. There’s no other way to experience a problem than in the narrative in our heads. The more that we can see through that, the less insistent it gets, it becomes because you’re not shining the light of consciousness onto it.
So you’re not growing it essentially. What is it they say? What we resist, persists. If we pay a whole load of attention, it’s gonna stick around. If we don’t pay any attention, it’s not.
Rachel: So maybe he has just yet, absolutely trained themselves to pay attention to these thoughts and not the other ones, and then they’ve gradually gone down. I think we can all do that, to some extent, can’t we? But the issue is when I talk to people about is, you’re thinking about this thing that’s causing the problem. I do get that and I do believe that the problem is, it’s then the consequences of then saying no and then saying enough is enough.
Because yes, when you’re saying, is every single GP burning out? Of course not, because there’s not every single GP that burning out. Is every single GP that’s a partner running a practice spelling out? Of course not. There are some that doing really well. There are some that aren’t. They’ve all got a lot of pressure on them, some more than others.
I do think that if you put someone in a difficult situation for long enough and they do nothing about that, eventually no matter how resilient they are, how many resilience skills, eventually, their physiology with the chronic stress will cause a problem. But I don’t know, it’s just when you actually do have this stuff, you say don’t pay attention to those thoughts, but what if those thoughts are actually true.
Actually, if we don’t do this, we are going to lose the business, potentially. I won’t be able to feed my family, all those sorts of things, those consequences, actually. You say that probably won’t happen, but actually, you can see that if you made that decision to protect yourself that would happen. So you do choose to carry on doing what you’re doing so that you can still feed your family, etc, etc.
People feel then they’re trapped, and they have no choice. What do you do then, when the thoughts that you’re having actually make a lot of sense?
Giles: Oh, no, I mean, Rachel, don’t get me wrong. The thoughts that we’re having, they make total sense. They’ve evolved to make total sense. Like 75,000 years ago, when we split off from the chimps or whatever, and we evolved this ability to think about our own thinking, then it’d be no good, would it, if 75000 years ago, we had this thought that there might be a saber toothed Tiger. Is it a saber toothed Tiger?
Do I believe my thinking there and had a debate about whether or not we believed I think so it’s evolved. It’s evolved to be, to look so, so, so real and so true, but to take a step back from the situation. Yeah, I agree with you, and honestly, I would never ever, ever do this with any of my clients if they’re shook up, if they’re in the middle of a thought storm. If I’m in the middle of a thought storm, I’ve got a seven year old daughter, who will quite happily tell me, oh, Daddy, it’s just your thinking.
I’m like, oh, not that doesn’t help now, alright? It’s not gonna help at all in the thick of things. So then what we’re talking about here is taking a step back and really having a look at the nature of thought and the nature of experience. Yeah, hell, it looks real. It really looks like I’m running my own business. I have days where it’s like, oh, my god, I’m not gonna be able to feed my family in several months or something, and it’s all just a mind doing what a mind does.
I mean, I think of it as sort of a computer filing system. It’s using what it already knows. It’s using old stale data, and it’s trying to make predictions on the basis of that, so rifling through its little filing system. It goes, well, I know this, and I know this, and I know this. Okay, Giles, well, the best prediction I can come up with here is that’s going to help you and keep you safe from the modern version of a saber toothed Tiger.
You need to panic now, because you’re not going to be able to feed your family in two months. Now, because I’ve seen through that, I know it’s not helpful in any way. I mean, literally not in any way, it’s all completely made up. It’s 100% made up. It’s 100% fiction. It’s just a mind doing its thing, and I know that if I don’t pay any attention. If there are problems, I’m not saying there aren’t, there aren’t situations to be dealt with.
Those situations aren’t gonna go anywhere. They’re still gonna be there when I’m in a much better state of mind to actually deal with them. I know from experience that I’m in a better state of mind when I am in my default state of calm, clear-minded, connected to my wisdom, connected to common sense. I’ll be doing nothing in particular and a good idea. I have a good idea. I don’t get good ideas.
When I’m all stressed and believing my thinking and acting out of a place of fear and lack and insecurity, I do best. We all do best. Again, this is how we’re all made. You can look to your own experience, and see the truth in this is that we do best when we’re calm and clear-minded. That’s when we have good ideas. That’s when we solve problems.
Rachel: There’s a good neuroscience behind that, isn’t there? When you are making it as flared up and puts you into your stress zone, your fight, flight or freeze zone, when you are hyper adrenaline zone, your sympathetic zone, your blood is diverted, isn’t it? From your prefrontal cortex goes into your muscles, you literally can’t think straight.
Rachel: It’s become very black and white. You’re not creative and broaden. Theory says that, if you’re in a positive state of mind, if you’re calm, you can be creative. You can think out of the box, which is important. What do you mean by the thoughts? So how do you talk about snowglobe, which I think has been quite helpful to explain a bit more about that.
Giles: If you imagine our default state as human beings is calm water, okay, and when it’s calm, we’re able to think clearly, and we’re able to come up with good ideas. It’d be intuitive and listen to our wisdom and all the good stuff. Then a stone gets thrown into the water. There are ripples, but those ripples, they die down of their own accord. We don’t need to try. In fact, if you tried to make the ripples go away, you’d make things worse, and it’s a bit the same with the snow globe.
Something happens to us. For instance, going back to my example, I wake up in the morning, and I’ve got racing heart. This is bad podcasting, isn’t it? Because I’m holding a snowglobe in front of the camera shaky because it’s on my desk.
Rachel: Imagine a slow globe and just shaking it in front of the microphone.
Giles: So yeah, I wake up my snowglobes shaken up, okay? Really all I need to do, the only thing I need to do is identify that a snowglobe is shaken up. I don’t need to do anything else, because the mind will come up with an infinite number of reasons why I feel the way I do. But all those feelings are telling me that racing heart, the slight nausea. I mean, first thing in the morning, I had a full bladder and was a bit dehydrated, that’s a good enough reason. So I have a racing heart. But no, no, no, my mind knows better. It’s straight off into my diary, into its little filing system. It’s like right what can be the reason for that? But it could have been anything else. It could have been,
Rachel: Patient complaints?
Giles: Patient complaints. It could have been a call that I’ve got later. It could have been a project I’m working on that I’ve haven’t come up with a solution yet. Boy, does my left brain not like having solutions. It likes to try and figure it all out and get it all down on paper and everything. So just saying that I’m shook up. I can see that I’m disconnected from that state of calm and common sense and wisdom.
If I want to see those people in the snow globe, what I have to do is to stop shaking it, is to stop entertaining that thinking, is to stop jumping. It’s like trains come into the state of thought. Trains come into the station. I can either watch the thought trains come and go, or I can jump on that thought train and see where it takes me. Well, if I jumped on the anxious about well being Wednesday’s thought train, before I know it, I’ve neglected the actual important work of the day that I’ve got planned because of running around like a headless chicken.
It’s not complicated. It’s not sexy. It’s not all, let’s do this and do that. All I do and help my clients with it is just to see the way that our minds work. Because the more that we can see exactly how we’re experiencing everything, then the less frightened we are of it. The less invested we get into trying to fix things mentally, when actually that’s what’s getting in the way of us having solutions to our problems.
Rachel: Okay, so how do you let it settle down? How do you get this , no, just settle when you’re in the middle of a dreadful, dreadful day?
Giles: Well, I suppose seeing at the level of principle, at the level of principle, there’s no such thing as a dreadful day. Seeing that dreadful is a concept. That’s all part of that left brain experience. What’s actually happening as human beings is that we have one moment after another, and we’re experiencing whatever we’re experiencing inside our perception, inside our thought system. The more that we see that, the less it makes sense.
It’s always going to be about doing what makes sense. It’s always going to be when I woke up with those anxious feelings, it didn’t make sense to me to entertain them. It’s all about awareness and understanding of what’s going on for us, understanding how the human operating system works. So in the middle of a dreadful day, it’s to see that you only ever experiencing the present moment.
Rachel: Finally, here’s one of my favorite guests, John C. Parkin, talking about how the eff it mentality can help you become ridiculously relaxed
John C Parkin: When we first understood the power of saying fuck it, and when I say we, I mean Gaia and myself, my wife and myself, we just set up a retreat centre in Italy. So we spent the previous few years setting this up, and the reason we were setting up the retreat center is because we were into meditation and Taoism, the kind of going with the flow philosophy, and Buddhism, the kind of supermarket mix, that the pick and mix version that is modern spirituality.
So we’re into a lot of alternative health and alternative spirituality, which if you can mix it up in a few sentences is about giving up on attachment, letting go, going with the flow, dropping into presence, those kinds of ideas. What we found was after having meditating every day, doing Tai Chi and Qigong every day, we found that when we were really stressed, we were saying, fuck it, and that had the peculiarly similar effect to a lot of those things that we’ve been practising as these Eastern, mainly Eastern, philosophical elements.
So when you say fuck it, you kind of give up on something. You let go on something. You drop out of this kind of world of meaning that we’re locked in, in the mind. So that was how it became this really neat, quick, very Western, it’s quickly is a tool that you can use it really quickly, and it’s a very Western phrase, obviously. It came a Western version of a whole bunch of Eastern philosophies.
Rachel: It’s just that shortcut to get you to that point of letting it go, accepting it, not having the attachment.
John: Yeah, yeah, it’s a shortcut in lots of ways. It’s because it’s very particular in our language fuck it, because you kind of know what it means. You know that your problem, the stress that you’re feeling, and the tension that you’re feeling is related to something, the it, but you’re placing too much weight on, and therefore you could do with saying, fuck it. There’s hardly anything else apart from the use of the swear word, which is very proven, scientifically proven to be very powerful in our brains.
It does a very particular thing just for the linguistic context of it, the meaning context of it, and there is that thing that they found that most of our language is generated on the left brain, and the swear words are generated in the right brain. So it looks like whenever we swear, there’s a jump, in very simplistic terms, and I know you have many scientists in your audience.
So in very simplistic terms, it looks like we jump to the right brain and right brain, again, in simplistic terms, if left brains more language, planning past, future, kind of more logic. If right, brain very broadly as more and calm, playful, uninhibited, and the spiritual connection, if that’s over there, then just saying the F word takes us into that part of the brain, which I think is amazing.
Rachel: I was reading that last night in your book, actually, and I hadn’t really got that before, even though I listened to the episode podcast that we did before. You talked about that there as well. But it suddenly just clicked for me that, ah, that’s why we need to access our right brain to deal with a lot of this stuff, because you’re puzzling it through, thinking it out works to some extent, but then you just get stoked, don’t you?
John: You’ve hit the nail on the head, really. Yeah, you can’t really sort this stuff out with the left brain, the logic brain. You can’t deal with anxiety, stress and everything else by thinking it through, because thinking is the problem. For most of these things, thinking is the problem. They know anxiety, most of it’s about Doom laden scenarios into the future. We have no idea what’s going to happen into the future, but we create a false idea world of what might happen.
Whereas it hasn’t happened yet, so it’s entirely mentally created. Most of the source of our stress is entirely mental, entirely mind that part of our mind created. So the solution is very rarely in thinking it through and certainly not thinking it through from that side of the brain. So that the solution, quite obviously really, is to go somewhere else not to try and use that to figure it out, to use something else, which is to try and let go to get into a different state, where literally, as well as the different parts of the brain being activated that we drop into a different frequency.
So the brain is at a different frequency, and the whole body will change under relaxation, so the body mind is changing. Then the problems, it’s like looking at problems from a completely different angle, a different space, and then the answers come quite more easily.
Rachel: Yeah, there’s a quote, I think it was Mark Twain that said, I’m an old man. I’ve known many troubles, but most of them didn’t happen.
John: Ah, yes. Beautiful.
Rachel: Great quote, and when I say, yeah, about the stress and the anxiety that a lot of our listeners are going through, I’m going through a lot of people working these high stress jobs. It is thinking about things that haven’t actually happened yet. There’s probably a bit of dwelling on the past, but mostly it’s worrying about the future. Yeah, you’re not going to use the same tool to solve it, and so just using the right brain, it’s gonna be helpful.
I had a quite an interesting experience the other night where I did a free webinar. We had loads of people signed up to it, and zoom has changed its settings. So yes, even though I had bought the large meeting, paid a lot of money to make sure everybody could get in, I hadn’t clicked the button to convert. It was something that happened. It changed. Normally, it had been fine, changed overnight, and only a limited amount of people could get in, and luckily I didn’t find this out until after the webinar.
Then I got messages, and I just felt awful because people have given up time to come, and they’d really want to come. Immediately, I felt this sort of weight of stress. I knew I was talking to you this week, actually, and I just I said, you know what, fuck it. There’s nothing I can say and genuinely work because even though the problem was still there, and I did what I could to make sure people had the replay and make it up to people and stuff. Just that saying fuck it, really, really helps, and it was quite surprisingly powerful.
John: Yeah. Yeah, it is. I always imagined it as acupuncture is that mod I’m used to when I have something going on. So I get some needles stuck into various bits, and it feels like the needle going into just the right spot, just the perfect thing, when the tension and the pain really builds up. Yeah, because it makes us really make a bit, bit punk parser. I’m mixing the metaphors now, but it’s puncturing the balloon of meaning, isn’t it, of massive meaning attachment to that thing.
This is so important to me. You’re also brilliant at kind of reframing it, as you say, making up to people. Yeah, it helps, no end.
Rachel: I guess when it’s something that’s happened, that you can’t change what’s happened, even though it is really important to you, there is genuinely nothing you can do to change what has happened in the past. So to me, that’s really, really helpful.
John: When you think things have gone wrong and there’s been a mistake, and then something else comes out of it, and later on, you’re able to see that oh, my goodness, that wouldn’t have happened unless that apparent mistake had happened. It does seem to be the case that when you’ve lived long enough on this planet, and you look at the big things that you went. Oh, that was awful.
When it happens, it’s awful. It’s terrible. You look a bit late or, well, I’m that wouldn’t have happened if that bit hadn’t gone wrong, or whatever it is.
Rachel: So this whole thing is about letting go of the attachment that we have to the outcomes of stuff, that right? Then the meaning behind that. I got that, right?
John: Yeah, you could argue at a real kind of basic psychological level that it’s our attachment to the meanings of things that don’t matter so much, so it’s getting perspective over things. So if we’ve got a kind of, let’s say, energy, energy in terms of traditional energy bandwidth, we use our mental energy bandwidth, and we’re using some of it to worry about. As I said, won’t worry about the bills, but at the moment, we have good reasons to be worrying about the bills, but some of its worrying about the bill.
Some of it’s worrying about whether the government’s going to change. So basically, you’re using more and more and more of the bandwidth to worry about things that in the end don’t matter so much. Then the bit that we worry about the things that we shouldn’t be worrying about which is health, kids, of all the survival stuff, really survival of us or our loved ones takes up this little bit in the corner.
So fuck it partly is about going, why you’d say taking up so much energy, worrying about that stuff. If you’re gonna worry, worry about the shit that matters.
- Episode 119: How To Improve Your Mental Health In 10 Minutes with Dr Lee David
- Episode 106: How to Stop Worrying When There’s a Lot to Worry About with Caroline Walker
- Episode 105: The Simplest Way to Beat Stress and Work Happier with Dr Giles P. Croft
- Episode 130: How to Say F**k It and Become Ridiculously Relaxed (Even about Stuff That REALLY Matters) with John C. Parkins
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