Gabrielle Treanor is a writer, course teacher and podcaster. She helps overthinkers to worry less and enjoy life more. In the interview below she talks about her work, potential reasons behind overworrying, methods we can use to redirect our thoughts and why it is so important to her to share her knowledge.
Hi Gabrielle, I am so glad you agreed on this interview! Please introduce yourself and explain in a few sentences what you do.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I help overthinkers to worry less and enjoy life more through my online courses, the Pressing Pause podcast, as well as writing for magazines and my blog, and posting on Instagram. I will soon be offering one-to-one coaching too. I live in the Brecon Beacons national park in Wales with my husband and little dog.
What led you on to write, teach and speak about overworrying and overthinking?
I am a fully paid-up member of the overthinkers club! I’ve been a worrier all my life and a few years ago I discovered the world of positive psychology which changed everything for me. Everything I read and learned about mindfulness, gratitude, self-compassion, savouring and meditation I tried out on myself to see what it was like, how it felt and what helped me to spend less time lost in my head going over and over thoughts and more time in the real world, enjoying life as it’s happening. Because what I learned and experienced has made (and continues to make) such a difference to me I wanted to share it with other people who feel the way I did and who want to feel lighter and more free, less weighed down by overthinking.
What do you think causes overworrying?
That’s a tricky question, I don’t think you can pinpoint it to one cause. I think you can inherit a tendency to worry but genetics only play one part in making up the person you are. Your upbringing can be a factor, you might learn to worry from watching your parents or other adults. Or you may have just come to believe over time that you can exert some control over your life if you think about everything from every angle and cover all bases (sadly, it’s not true). I don’t think the cause is that important to know, it’s what you do moving forward that really matters.
What are three easy ways to avoid overthinking – or at least make one worry less?
Completely avoiding worry is unrealistic and a sensible level of worry is needed to keep us safe. But what overthinkers do is live in their heads. They’re going over past conversations, imagining possible scenarios in the future, what ifing, beating themselves up for not doing or saying something different, second guessing others’ needs… if you can think about it, overthinkers will. So, spending less time in your head and tied up with your thoughts is crucial to reducing overthinking. There are lots and lots of ways you can do this.
To be able to worry less you need to know you’re doing it in the first place by becoming more aware of what you’re thinking about and how it’s making you feel. Taking a few minutes a day to meditate is so good for overthinkers because not only does it give you the chance to calm your nerves, it also teaches you to notice your thoughts rather than be absorbed in them. When you’re meditating by focusing on your breath, for example, and your mind wanders off to other thoughts that’s a really good thing. Because when you notice your mind has drifted off you’re learning to recognise your thoughts rather than be in them. Then, outside of meditation you become more aware of when your thoughts are spiralling off into worry and you can extricate yourself from them rather than remaining entangled.
Another way is to allocate yourself ‘worry time’. Decide on a specific time and place, for example 1-1.15pm at your kitchen table, and that’s when you’re going to let rip with your worrying. When worries pop into your head before that time you make a note of them and then put them aside for when you reach your worry time. Then, at your allocated worry time you address your worries and when time is up you put them aside until your next worry time.
This idea (I have so many but you asked for three so that’s what I’m sticking with!) is useful for when you want to drag your attention out of your thoughts and into the real world. So, for example, you could be walking through a park on a sunny day with your family and you realise that instead of enjoying the people and surroundings you keep getting lost in going over the same thoughts. This is where you tap into your senses and focus your attention on each one in turn. So you would notice one thing you can see, saying it out loud if it helps keep your attention. Then notice one sound you can hear, then, if there’s a scent you can smell. Finally you move your attention to what you can touch or feel such as your hands brushing your sides as you walk or the breeze in your hair. And then you go back to the first sense, naming what else you can see. You keep running through your senses one by one and every time you realise you’ve gone back into your thoughts you gently (without getting cross at yourself) bring your attention back to what you can see, hear, smell or touch.
The two of us met on Instagram, a wonderful platform for community and meeting likeminded people but simultaneously a place that can easily provoke self-doubt. I’ve spoken to many creatives who find it hard to stay positive if a post doesn’t perform well – but also, the constant need for approval. What can help one to stay positive on Instagram and perhaps take unfollows or fewer likes less personally?
I think it helps to look at the bigger picture, we can get so super focused on one thing, like Instagram, that we forget everything else that’s going on. There could be lots of different reasons for why a post doesn’t get as many likes as you want or if your follower numbers drop, and most of them will have nothing to do with you. Think about how you use Instagram, you don’t see every single image posted by every single person you follow and it isn’t possible to like every single photo, there aren’t enough hours in the day! I bet you’ve unfollowed accounts for all kinds of reasons and not because you’ve taken a dislike to them as a person.
Instagram is my favourite social media, I love the connections and inspiration and the friends I’ve made there. I also know that it’s just one place for me to find those things and that what I see is a snapshot, literally, it isn’t a 24 hours a day, fly on the wall documentary of someone’s life. Just as no-one knows everything about you and your life, neither do you know exactly what’s going on in someone else’s life from their Instagram feed. When you notice that being online isn’t making you feel good (again, that awareness is key) step away from your digital device and focus your energy and attention on something in the real world that feels good for you.
Your podcast Pressing Pause is one of the podcasts I regularly listen to. How do you come up with the content for your episodes?
Thank you so much for listening, I love that you tell me I keep you company on your way to work! What I share in the podcast are key messages and actions that I talk about in other places too like my blog, magazine articles, social media posts and in my online courses. There are some things that we simply can’t hear enough, I know I need to hear them as much as anyone else! I also pay attention to what others are writing in their IG posts or questions I’m asked and they can spark an idea for something I think would be helpful to address or give suggestions on. I’m always happy to hear from listeners as to what they’d like me to talk about. Other ideas come from my own experiences, a conversation with a friend, something I’ve read or heard, all over the place!
You recently launched Exhale, a beginners’ guide to meditation for overthinkers. Why was it so important for you to launch the e-course?
Everything I do – from the posts I write on IG to the podcasts I record to the courses I create – comes from wanting to help overthinkers to worry less and enjoy life more. As I mentioned before, meditation is really beneficial for those of us who can get stuck in our thoughts because you learn to be more aware of when that’s happening so you can then take action to address it. There are a lot of misunderstandings about meditation that stop people from getting the benefit from it (you don’t needs loads of time for it, it’s not about emptying your mind and your thoughts wandering off is not a bad thing) and making it into a habit can feel really difficult. All of these things got in my way when I was trying to get the hang of meditating so I wanted to take all my experience and learning from my meandering journey and use it to create a course that would address these issues, break down the barriers getting in the way and enable overthinkers to meditate in a way that works for them and helps them to reduce how much they worry so they can spend more of their energy enjoying life.
Where can people find you and your work?
My website is gabrielletreanor.com and there you will find my courses, podcast, blog posts and a free resource library with a mindfulness guide which you can get access to when you sign up to receive my emails. I’m also on Instagram as @gabrielletreanor, on Facebook as @gabrielletreanorwellbeing and on Twitter and Pinterest as @gabstreanor.
What is your perfect heiter (cheerful) moment?
Picking just one is tricky but I will say walking with my husband and dog in the local woods as the sun shines down on us.
Image: Emily Quinton
Interview: Katharina Geissler-Evans, heiter magazine