Here are some ways to take the proper steps to care for yourself as you care for others.
Have you ever felt like you’ve cared so much you just can’t anymore? Like you’re exhausted from taking care of others? Even if you’ve never heard of compassion fatigue, you may be familiar with what it is. Maybe more familiar than you’d like.
What is compassion fatigue?
Psychologist Charles Figley says it’s “a state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically and emotionally, as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress.”
In essence, it’s feeling like you have no more empathy to give.
Compassion fatigue is most often associated with health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, therapists and at-home caregivers. But we’re all at risk of feeling this way.
Let’s face it: Life can be downright draining.
Caring for sick or aging loved ones may be wearing you out. Perhaps you’re tired of giving grace to your spouse. Maybe you don’t feel like you have anything left to give your kids. The non-stop flow of information about the suffering around the world can overwhelm you. All these things (and more) can contribute to a feeling of emotional exhaustion.
The root of compassion fatigue is in caring for others.
It would be easy to confuse compassion fatigue with burnout, but they’re a bit different. According to the American Institute of Stress, burnout is marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with cumulative stress at work. [Read https://firstthings.org/7-ways-to-prevent-burnout/.]
Compassion fatigue occurs because of the emotional strain of supporting those who are suffering from something traumatic. It is rooted in caring for others. It’s not just a workplace thing, but it can co-exist with burnout, especially for those in service professions.
A decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment
A change in your worldview or spirituality
Drastic shifts in mood
A dramatic withdrawal from social connections
Since compassion fatigue affects your mental and physical health, it also impacts the quality of your relationships with your partner, children, friends, and co-workers.
Remember, caring for yourself properly can help you care effectively for others. So, if (or when) you find that you’ve run out of empathy to give, understanding how to combat those feelings can help you move forward.
Fighting Compassion Fatigue
Psychiatrist Yazhini Srivathsal, M.D., offers a few ways to combat compassion fatigue:
Follow general self-care guidelines – get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and nurture social relationships.
Practice gratitude and being engaged in the present moment.
Avoid information overload. If too much negative information stresses you out, take steps to decrease how much you consume.
Engage in activities that rejuvenate you.
Understand that pain and suffering are normal, and you have no control over them.
Focus on what you can control, like your thoughts and feelings. You may not be able to control what happens around you or to you, but you can control how you react.
If needed, seek professional help.
Helping others is an important component of healthy relationships. Your partner, your children, and your loved ones depend on you, and that can be overwhelming. When you feel compassion fatigue begins to set in, take the proper steps to care for yourself. If you see these signs in your loved ones, stepping in and offering to walk alongside them can alleviate some of their load.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Untitled-10-01.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2022-01-13 12:12:582022-01-24 13:32:59What to Do When You Feel Compassion Fatigue
Have you ever wondered how to make life better? How can you be happier, healthier, or more fulfilled? Having an attitude of gratitude could be one answer. You may have heard this little catchphrase before. It’s possible you just rolled your eyes, too.
But does being thankful work?
What is gratitude anyway?
Gratitude is the state of being thankful. It’s showing appreciation for what you have or receive.
Dr. Robert Emmons, the gratitude guru, takes the definition further. He describes it using two key components:
Gratitude is “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received.”
Gratitude is our recognition “that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.”
So, how can being thankful benefit your life? I’m so glad you asked.
Here are 5 benefits of gratitude:
1. Gratitude can help relieve stress.
We all deal with stress daily. Research has found that being grateful might keep our minds from getting so worked up worrying about things. When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, refocusing on what you’re grateful for can calm the body and mind. This reduces the symptoms of stress.
When you choose gratitude over negativity, you also feel less emotionally charged. A sense of gratitude allows you to respond rather than react in the moment.
2. Gratitude can make you more positive.
According to psychologist Dr. Catherine Jackson, gratitude causes the brain to increase the production of dopamine and serotonin.
Dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. It’s associated with pleasure and reward. It contributes to focus, motivation, and happiness.
Serotonin is a chemical that is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety, heal wounds, and maintain bone health.
So, a grateful mind allows you to feel more positive emotions.
THE GRATITUDE CHALLENGE
EASY ACTIVITIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY TO CULTIVATE A MINDSET OF THANKFULNESS
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF THIS SEASON?
It’s easy to find yourself smack dab in the middle of the holiday season feeling frantic and totally unprepared for the flurry of meals, school programs, family get-togethers, and gift exchanges. It’s really hard to feel grateful when you’re STRESSED to the max. (Shocker, right?)
And you better believe your kids are picking up what you’re putting down. So if you want them to have a little gratitude for all that they have, a good place to start is intentionally expressing gratitude yourself.
This guide will help you and your whole family do just that. Download these free activities for all ages and start cultivating some gratitude magic!
3. Gratitude strengthens your relationships.
Relationships, whether romantic, family, or friends, can be full of disappointments. As we grow closer to others, we see their flaws. It can be easy to dwell on these. But an attitude of gratitude allows us to focus more on the good qualities. The more we focus on the good, the more positive attributes we’ll find.
A series of 2012 studies found that gratitude also increases empathy and reduces aggression. Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others. Aggression, however, is just the opposite and is reduced among grateful people.
4. Gratitude can make you healthier.
The more grateful you are, the healthier you feel. Research supports that, too. Those who practice gratitude tend to have better psychological health. Grateful people also involve themselves in healthy activities and are more willing to seek help for health concerns. Additionally, grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves.
5. Gratitude reduces your risk of depression.
Regularly expressing gratitude can lead to fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Being grateful reminds us that not everything is bad. There are positives that we can focus on. Gratitude can make you feel more motivated, which pushes you toward your goals and dreams. A sense of hope helps to protect against depression.
Approaching life with thankfulness can have positive effects across all aspects of life. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your relationships. Choosing to be thankful and expressing gratitude for what you have can be a wonderful thing. And in case you didn’t know, gratitude is contagious. Your attitude of gratitude can create a ripple effect throughout your friends and family.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Untitled-1-01-2.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-11-09 10:08:382021-11-12 11:36:525 Benefits of Being Thankful
You won't believe how it benefits you, your spouse, and your relationship!
Compassion is important in marriage!
Did you know that there’s a whole science behind compassion in relationships? Seriously! Ok, bear with me, even if you’re not a researchy-geek like me (I promise I won’t make this sound like your high school chemistry book.) Because compassion is majorly important in marriages, even more so than you might think. And research has a lot to say about it.
Just like anything sciency, it’s essential to define terms well. And sometimes compassion, empathy, and sympathy get mixed up. Let’s untangle that.
Sympathy = You share the same feelings or experiences with someone else. They hurt, you hurt. You can sympathize.
Empathy = You don’t share the same feelings or experiences, but you choose to imagine what it might be like. They hurt; you don’t but can put yourself in their shoes. You can empathize.
And then we come to compassion. This is when you empathize/sympathize with someone (say, your spouse), and you’re prompted to show kindness in their situation.
They hurt. You empathize/sympathize. You say something to lift their spirits. Compassion!
So, sympathy/empathy are only the beginning of compassion. One study even suggests being empathetic is good to a point, but it can actually affect you negatively unless it’s followed up by compassion.1
So compassion is more than a feeling. (Classic rock fans, anyone?) Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, compassion isn’t really beneficial unless it’s put into action. One researcher describes compassionate acts as “caregiving that is freely given.”2
Think about this in your marriage.
No matter what your spouse experiences, good days or bad, you can:
And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.
To help you write the next chapter of your marriage story, each module features…
A simple, easy-to-understand video lead by marriage experts,
A download to help you personalize the key concepts for your marriage, and
Action items to transform your marriage as you go through the course.
You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)
Y’all…we should be doing this all the time in our marriage!
Why? (Here we go with the science again…) Research3 tells us compassion is good for you, your spouse, and your marriage!
Compassion toward a spouse predicts higher levels of daily relationship and life satisfaction for both people. (Don’t miss this: happiness in marriage goes up on a daily basis! Who doesn’t want that?)
Compassionate acts benefit the emotional and mental well-being of the person receiving them (in this case, your spouse).
The person who is acting compassionately toward their spouse also experiences a positive effect on their well-being, even if the spouse doesn’t necessarily recognize the compassionate act!
Bottom line:Compassionate acts do a marriage good.
It makes you a better spouse. It makes your spouse a better person. And it makes your marriage more loving, intimate, and strong.
Let’s consider one more reason why compassion might be one of the most important qualities in marriage. No matter who you are, most of us would agree that the world could always use a little more compassion. What if the real power of compassion in our world begins with compassionate action in our marriages and families? We know kindness is contagious.4 As they say: as families go, so goes the world.
So, inject some compassionate action into your marriage — for your spouse, for you, for the world.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-2.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-08-10 09:45:532021-09-21 13:01:28Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage
A good relationship is worth the risk you may have to take.
What do you do when you don’t like your friend’s friend? This is a tricky but common situation.
And for the record, we aren’t talking about someone in your friend’s life who just rubs you the wrong way. This goes considerably deeper than personality. Still, let’s leave no room for misunderstanding.
First, let’s ask some clarifying questions.
Could it be you? Are you the jealous type? Prone to overreacting? (Sorry. Had to ask.)
Could this person be awful at first impressions? How much have you been around them? (Without being all gossipy, is anyone else in your friend circle picking up on this?)
Is this person truly toxic? A bad influence on your friend? Are you legitimately worried about your friend?
Okay, so number three is on the table. You’re worried about your friend. They seem to have a blind spot about this person, and this “friend” negatively influences them. This obviously isn’t cool.
Second, let’s wrap our heads around what’s going on.
This person may be in a bad season of life, and their negativity is affecting your friend.
This person may be making lifestyle choices that you know go against your friend’s values, and you see your friend heading that way.
He or she may be in a bad relationship, divorcing, or divorced, and they are poisoning your friend’s relationship or view of marriage.
This person might be vocal about their views on sex, faithfulness, integrity, and they’re encouraging your friend to move outside their boundaries and character.
Your friend may be in a vulnerable position and highly susceptible to influence.
You may have already seen changes in your friend that concern you.
If you see any of these things, or something similar, a conversation with your friend is in order.
Research shows that we are wired to catch and spread emotions and behaviors just like we catch and spread a cold or virus.
Psychologists use the term “social contagion” to describe how individuals or groups influence us. Simple examples include yawns and smiles, but they can also include infidelity and divorce. As much as we want to think we’re our own person, we are all susceptible to the influence of others — both positive and negative. It’s not uncommon to see it happening to our friends while they’re oblivious to it. We have blind spots.
What do you do when your friend has a toxic friend who is a bad influence on them?
Friends help friends see their blindspots. Sometimes our friend’s immediate response is gratitude. Sometimes it can be anger or resentment. Often, it depends on the rapport you have with your friend and the trust you’ve developed in that relationship.
Bottom line: You have to use your judgment. Do you have “relationship capital” built up with your friend to call them out on how they’re changing or being influenced? Has the “threat” risen to the level that you are willing to risk your friendship?
You’re a quality friend for caring. You gotta do something about this because that’s what quality friends do. But you’re also aware that this sort of thing can go sideways and, worst-case scenario, you could lose a friend over it.
Know this. Believe this. You’re responsible for bringing your concerns to your friend.
Be tactful, respectful, and direct. Your friend is responsible for how they respond. Truth. You have to know that you’re doing what good friends do. Your friend is responsible for their reaction, which is entirely out of your control. Are you prepared to lose a friend because of your sense of duty, responsibility, loyalty, and being a quality friend?
Sadly, this is what it often comes down to in the short term. Sometimes your friend will be grateful after they’ve processed what you’ve said, heard similar things from other friends, or experienced some negativity. But it’s hard on you to lose some standing with a friend or have to watch them learn something the hard way.
Keep your concern about your friend front and center rather than negativity about your friend’s friend who has you concerned. You won’t regret speaking the truth from a caring heart.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-5-01-1.png5001200John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2021-07-13 11:05:072021-07-16 11:21:28When You Don’t Like Your Friend’s Friend
Just like COVID affects us in different ways, so can the aftermath.
Summer is in full swing, and things seem to be getting back to normal. Fifteen months ago, the world was full of questions and uncertainty. Today, businesses are reopening, large-scale events and social gatherings are returning, and school resumes in the fall. While some people are relieved by these things, not everyone is.
Some may feel anxious about the post-pandemic world.
Many people shifted how they lived during the height of the pandemic. We had to adjust to life as we knew it, and now we see a slow return to a pre-pandemic normal. It’s common to feel anxiety and uncertainty due to change.
2020 brought a drastic shift in life around the globe, affecting us all in different ways. You may have been affected to a greater degree than those around you. You may have felt a little out of place because of that. Maybe you still do. It’s okay. Anxiety during the post-pandemic period is normal, and we all deal with things in our own way. Over the last 12 months, several studies have examined the pandemic’s impact on mental and physical health. As you would expect, researchers have found increased stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several studies call this stress post-pandemic anxiety.
So, what is post-pandemic anxiety?
We all experienced a global pandemic over the last 15 months. But we didn’t all have the same experience. Many factors may have affected your experience: job loss, being classified as an essential worker, parenting and dealing with school from home, being in closer proximity to those infected with the virus, contracting the virus, or being quarantined are just a few examples.
According to Canadian researchers, “several studies have reported high levels of fear of infection and a pandemic-specific adjustment disorder called the COVID Stress Syndrome.
The COVID Stress Syndrome has five features.
1. danger and contamination fears
2. socioeconomic concerns
3. Xenophobia (the fear or hatred of that which is perceived as foreign)
4. traumatic stress symptoms
5. compulsive checking and reassurance seeking.
There is emerging evidence that some people have developed post-traumatic stress disorder in response to COVID-19 related events.”
An Italian study conducted in 2020 found a similarity between anxiety induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since previous studies have identified PTSD in the months following epidemics or medical emergencies, this isn’t uncommon. Survivors, healthcare workers, people in direct contact with those infected, those subject to restrictive measures (quarantine and shutdowns), and those overly exposed to media information are at high risk for developing PTSD.
Of course, not everyone who experiences anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic suffers from PTSD. Anxiety can be seen as more of a sliding scale. People might experience varying levels of stress and anxiety as the world reopens.
Did I experience stress or trauma?
A Canadian study found that 15-25% of the general worldwide population experienced clinically significant levels of anxiety or stress-related symptoms in response to COVID-19. It’s likely that even more people experienced general distress due to the pandemic. Understandably, we all experienced varying levels of stress or even trauma.
What signs should I be aware of?
You may want to dismiss what you’ve experienced over the past year, but reflecting on how the pandemic has affected you might be good for your mental health. Pay attention to your emotions because self-awareness is the first step in getting help if you need it. Here are some signs of anxiety according to the American Psychological Association:
Persistent worry or feeling overwhelmed by emotions
Excessive worry about a number of concerns
Restlessness and irritability
Generally feeling on edge
While anxiety is normal with lots of situations, including post-pandemic, it’s whether the anxious feelings decrease over time that really determines if someone might need to seek professional help. If these symptoms don’t improve, reach out to a counselor or therapist. If you see a loved one struggling with anxiety, encourage them to seek help as well.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-2-01-2.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-07-06 11:42:522021-07-16 11:49:43What You Need to Know About Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Do your homework on the topic and move forward from there.
You may be trying to decide: Should we move in together? Or perhaps you already live together and have some questions.Is living together bad for your relationship? Is this going to be good or bad for us?
You’ve probably heard lots of strong opinions. Let me be straight-up with you;there’s no simple answer.
I hope to give you information that you may not have known before and let you come to your own conclusions. That’s how we make wise decisions about relationships, right? Find out all you can, weigh the arguments on both sides (even if you lean to one side at first), and go from there. That’s what I hope you’ll do.
Some of what makes this question not-so-simple is that you’re dealing with likelihoods. What are the odds that living together will be good or bad? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gambler. I don’t like betting against the odds. Life turns out much better when you know what’s most likely to happen.
Here’s what we can gather about likelihoods:
It seems reasonable (or likely) that living together should improve the odds of doing well later in marriage. Not only is there little research supporting this belief, but the evidence isn’t that strong.
As a matter of fact, living together before marriage has been most strongly associated with poorer marital outcomes. Experts call this the “premarital cohabitation effect.” Those who have lived together before marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage. And these marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
As living together before marriage became more accepted in society, people thought the association with divorce would decrease, making it less likely. This also has not been the case.
In fact, couples who lived together tend to report having very little struggle in the first year of their marriage. (It makes sense: They’ve already negotiated the initial shock of all the changes that come with moving in.) But in the years after, the cohabitation effect comes into much greater play, making divorce much more likely after their first year of marriage.
If you want to compare living together with what marriage may look like, you could be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. There are fundamental differences in trust levels and relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples. Couples who live together are much less likely to trust in their partner’s faithfulness, truthfulness, and responsibility than married couples.
I realize this might paint a bleak picture of living together. I don’t mean for it to; this isn’t my opinion nor anyone else’s. It’s simply the likelihood that research shows us.
Here’s another thought: There’s a theory out there that says moving in together makes it much harder to break up if the relationship goes south. The evidence tends to back this up. When you share bills, furniture, living space, a pet, and a bed, splitting up isn’t so cut-and-dry. (This is ironic because almost a quarter of people living together report they are testing the relationship.) Even if you feel you’re beyond the testing phase of your relationship, research shows the commitment level of couples living together is typically different than married couples. All this needs to be weighed very carefully before making a major decision.
Some final questions to consider: If you decide not to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter either of you from considering marriage later on? If it would, what does it say about your relationship?
And if you decide to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter you from breaking up if you needed to? If so, what would that say about your relationship?
At the end of the day, you have to come to your own conclusions. Again, I encourage you to step back and consider what’s at stake. Do plenty of homework and move forward from there. Be careful to discern between facts and mere opinions or personal perspectives. The health of your relationship and future marriage just may well depend on it.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BlogPicCoupleMoving-01.png8542048Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-06-04 10:26:562021-06-09 10:24:00Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?
Find out if living together will help you accomplish what you want.
Living together is pretty common these days. For many, living together is a natural progression in the evolution of their relationship, which may or may not lead to marriage. But it has its own set of complications, and there are things every couple should know before they move in together. I’m not trying to convince or dissuade you. Instead, I want to give you food for thought so you can make healthy decisions for your life.
This blog is for you if:
1. You are not seriously dating.
2. You’re seriously dating and thinking about moving in together.
3. You live together but recognize there are more things you need to discuss.
No matter your relationship status, talking about significant issues can create the healthiest connections.
Here are some questions to ask:
What’s my long-term plan? Our long-term plan?
What’s my level of commitment? My partner’s commitment level?
Here are FIVE essential topics every couple should know about and consider before they move in together.
1. Your reason: Why should we live together?
Be honest with yourselves and each other. Is it about:
Moving out of your parents’ house or away from that annoying roommate?
The next step toward marriage?
Continuing blindly down this path can lead to disappointment. Additionally, you should know your partner’s reason for living together. A Pew Research study offers many couples’ reasons, which include:
Natural next step
Learn more about each other
Want to test the relationship
Share your reasons. It’s natural to be hesitant about having this conversation, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free relationship. Talking about it allows you both to be vulnerable and transparent.
2. Your expectations: What will you (or won’t you) share?
Now that you’ve shared your reasons, communicate your expectations with your partner. Assuming things can damage your relationship, especially if you think you agree, but you don’t. Your expectations should be realistic. If you have different expectations, you each may have to compromise. Now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Discuss things like:
Who’s cooking and/or cleaning?
Who will shop and/or do the laundry?
Who does the yard?
Are we having meals together every night?
What are your long-term expectations (house, marriage, kids)?
Talking about this isn’t sexy, but it’ll help your relationship in the long run.
3. Your finances: What’ll it cost you?
Many couples think living together is cheaper than living apart. This may or may not be true, but they often don’t communicate about finances.
Who will move in where?
How much will we pay for rent?
Will we get a new place? Will we both be on the lease?
Who pays for what (groceries, car payment, car insurance, rent, cable, electricity, water, internet, phone, etc.)?
What’s our personal debt (credit card, student loan, etc.)?
4. Your habits: How will they impact your relationship?
When living together, you become well acquainted with the habits and behaviors of your partner in a whole new way. Knowing that they exercise at 4:00 AM is one thing. Experiencing them exercising at 4:00 AM is something totally different.
Are they a night owl or an early bird? Neat or messy?
Are they an exercise, sports, home improvement, or cooking fanatic?
How do they handle stress? Express emotions?
What’s their work life like? Working remotely, hybrid, or in the office?
Do they bring work home every night?
5. Your other relationships: How will you interact with your village?
While focusing on each other and excluding friends and family may be tempting, living together won’t mean you’re on an island. You each have friends and family in your lives that matter; they support and challenge you to be better versions of yourselves. Nurturing those relationships can benefit your growth as an individual and as a couple.
Living together is not something to do without some considerations.
Remember to think about:
What do I want out of this relationship?
What’s the end goal?
Do I want to get married?
Do I want to have children who are healthy and stable?
However you answer these questions, you’ll want to find out if living together will help you accomplish what you desire or if it will hinder you. It’s up to you to decide.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Anotha-One-01.png8542048Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-06-03 16:14:402021-08-25 11:40:325 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together
I hit the road every Saturday morning. Usually, I’m gone for an hour or two. Saturday is my long run day. The time commitment of training for a half marathon is significant. As I walk out the door, my little ones are wide awake and active. They hit me with the questions… “Where are you going, Dad?” “When will you be back?” “Why will you be gone for so long?” “Can you stay with us?”
Up to a few months ago, I felt guilty for leaving them. I felt like I was being selfish. I questioned if I was neglecting my wife and kids to do something I wanted to do, which took so much time and energy. This was me overthinking, being flooded with negative self-talk. They didn’t tell me I was being selfish. They were my biggest cheerleaders. But my overthinking was affecting reality.
When I think I’m neglecting my family to go on long runs one day a week, I’m listening to negative self-talk. Acuff calls these soundtracks. They are symptoms of overthinking that get you nowhere. We are just wasting resources on dead-end thoughts. He refers to overthinking as “the greatest thief of all. It steals time, creativity, productivity, hope.”
We can all be subject to overthinking as a spouse, a parent, a boss, an employee, or a friend. In any scenario, overthinking can be detrimental to furthering our relationships.
So, how do I stop overthinking?
Jon Acuff suggests we retire our broken soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and then repeat the new ones so often that they become the predominant thoughts you hear. The soundtracks we listen to are associated with an action. A broken soundtrack leads to inaction. It doesn’t take us anywhere, and doesn’t motivate us to push toward our goals.
Let me give you a real-life example. Training for a half-marathon takes anywhere from 4-6 hours a week for 12-18 weeks. This is time I would normally spend with my family. My negative self-talk led me to believe I was neglecting them and that I needed to spend that time with them, having fun. This made my training difficult because I felt guilty. That’s my broken soundtrack—all in my head.
My wife told me, “We are so proud of you. You are setting goals and doing what you love.” She helped me see that even though I was giving up some family time, I showed my kids what it looks like to set goals and take steps to achieve them. And there’s a bonus: they’re getting some weekend trips to races that they are super excited about.
I retired my broken soundtrack, replaced it with a new one, and it’s playing on repeat.
To stop overthinking, we have to identify a broken soundtrack. But, how do we do that?
Jon Acuff gives us a simple way to figure it out. Write down something you want to do. Doesn’t have to be anything significant. Maybe it’s, “I want to have a weekly date night.” Then, listen to the first thought you have. What is your first reaction? If you immediately start saying, We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, or we can’t afford a babysitter, you’re overthinking.
Congrats, you just found a broken soundtrack. Now ask three simple questions about that thought:
Is it true?
Is it helpful? (Does it move me forward or hold me back?)
Is it kind?
You don’t have to ask these questions about every thought, but ask about the big ones.Question the thoughts that seem to be holding you back the most. You might be surprised at how many broken soundtracks are playing in your mind.
Overthinking doesn’t have to kill your relationships. If you are an overthinker, evaluate those thoughts. Identify if they are true, helpful, or kind. And if those thoughts are hurting your relationships, it’s time to release, reshape and repeat new ones. You can choose what you think. Tell yourself, “I have the permission and the ability to choose what I think during the day to lead me to action I will take.”