Anxiety is normal – and all of us have felt it to a certain degree at some point – some more than others, but knowing this doesn’t exactly make it all that much more pleasant or enjoyable.
What we know about anxiety is that it often comes from fear.
The fear of something that could or might happen in the future regardless of how likely or realistic it is. But when we’re in the middle of feeling that fear, it seems veryreal and actually quite likely to occur.
And then sometimes we don’t even know what we’re scared of, we just have afeeling of dread and doom (and if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll know that our feelings can be known to lie to us from time to time).
Regardless of what is causing said anxiety, I don’t think most of us really like feeling it, especially because it can often times be completely awful, horrible, and debilitating in many ways.
But if we take a second and tune in to the internal chatter that is constantly going on in our heads (whether we are aware of it or not), we will often find a nasty little anxiety provoking sentence going a little something like this “Okay, so what if this awful, dreaded, horrible thing happens?!!?”
What if I get laid off? What if I don’t get in to grad school? What if my partner meets someone more interesting than me? What if my business goes belly up? What if I fail at this task? What if I say something stupid and make a fool of myself? What if no one calls me to make plans this weekend?
Or whatever it may be. It doesn’t have to be a BIG thing, it just has to feel big to you.
But the problem is this: Here is where most of us stop. We stop with our “what if?!!”statement and absolutely freak ourselves out with that which feels totally scary and out of our control.
But why aren’t we finishing our sentences? Wasn’t the unacceptability of an incomplete sentence drilled in to us in about grade 4?
Why do we stop with our what if which inevitably then sets off a whole flood of uncomfortable and anxious feelings?
Luckily there is an answer. And even luckilier (sp?) it’s a pretty easy, and quite effective way to turn down the volume on our pesky anxiety.
And the answer is this: all we need to do is simply complete that small, but very emotionally manipulative sentence.
What if I get laid off? What will I do? What is the worst thing that could happen if I got laid off and how would I cope with that? Could I be out of work for months? Could there be a hiring freeze or oversupply of qualified people in my field making it near impossible to get hired somewhere else? Could I bomb every interview I get?
Or whatever the worst case scenario is for you.
So just complete the sentence.
Really think about it, and then think about how you would deal with it. What would your options be? How would you cope with the change? Who would you turn to for support? What would help soften the blow? What’s plan b? (Something like that).
I’m not saying there are always amazing back up options at your fingertips, but there are always things you can do to help you move forward and keep going.
Come up with a possible “what if” plan or 2 or 3. The more the better. More options = less fear and dread.
And in my personal and all too present case: “What if my 20 month old daughter doesn’t resolve her new regression in her ability to sleep through the night by the time our new baby arrives in 2 months!!??”
What if I’m doomed to be up all night every night with 2 babies taking their turns waking and crying ? How will I cope? Or better yet (as someone who NEEDS a decent night’s sleep in order to function well emotionally and mentally) how will I even survive???
Well after calming myself a little and taking a moment to think through and finishing that darn “what if” sentence I realize all is not hopeless and I do have options – maybe my ideal situation of having 2 sleeping angels won’t be my reality any time soon, but I do have options.
We can move my 20 month old in to our room where I know she sleeps much better and can easily be calmed back to sleep with a few soothing words if she wakes at night. Or my husband can sleep in her room on a mat on the floor and tend to her if she needs it. Or we can move to my parents place for a few months and get some extra help there… and if I think about it longer I’m sure there are many more viable options.
Anxiety doesn’t need to be allowed to keep you feeling trapped, fearful, out of control, or helpless.
When we start to pay attention to and make a point to finish that pesky “What If”sentence, thereby giving ourselves some choices and options, anxiety won’t quite know what to do with itself and will have no other option than to move on to the next person who doesn’t complete their sentences.
No, we can’t always choose or control exactly what life brings us, but we always have choices within our circumstances.
I realize publicly voicing this might make one feel as though one is standing naked in front of a crowd, but are there any “what if” sentences you haven’t been completing lately?