How “What if…?” Triggers Worry

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What we worry aboutOne sure way to start worrying is to ask the question “What if….?”
Our thoughts take us to a dark place, automatically.

Worst case scenarios.It’s how our brains are designed – for survival. We can’t seem to help ourselves, even though we know predicting doom isn’t logical.

Remember that worry serves a purpose: to protect us and keep us physically safe by anticipating everything bad that could happen so we can take some action to avoid it.
But life doesn’t work that way.
And so, we worry. We worry about the people and things that matter to us.

Family and Friends
Financial Fear
Health or Illness
Climate Change
The State of Education
Clean Water
The New Boss or Coworker or Losing My Job
What Other Countries Are Thinking or Going To Do
Traffic and Construction
Being Late
Being Liked
What I Saw on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter
What’s For Dinner?

You probably have your own Top 5, 10 or 20 playlist that’s on repeat at 2:30 AM, and you think…this is CRAZY! How do I make it STOP?
(By the way, I have a personal rule to share: I NEVER believe what I tell myself or what I feel between 1 and 4 AM.)

Logic doesn’t always help, because the “primitive” part of the brain is designed to hijack and override the “thinking” part of our brain. By design.
But we can learn to work with worry – manage it, accept it, learn from it.

Tips You Can Use Today
What you can do when worry shows up as an unwelcome guest….

Take 3 Breaths. (Yes. All my tips start with this one – simple & sweet – calms the fight/flight/freeze response in your body when done correctly.)
Remember that thoughts are just thoughts, and that you do have some control over them.

Thoughts will usually pass if you don’t feed them and don’t fight them.
For example:

What if … I say something stupid in the meeting tomorrow and everyone thinks I’m an incompetent fool?
(C’mon, you know you’ve thought that about somebody else at some point, too.)

Let yourself go there. Suppose it does happen. Play it out. Fear will lose its power over you.

The worst thing would be everyone looks at me and somebody actually says, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” and everyone laughs maniacally and dogpiles with even more judgment and I’m humiliated and banished from the meetings forever and I get fired.

It’s unlikely to happen that way, but even if it did – you would grieve it, survive it, and regroup, right?

Play Point/Counterpoint
Sometimes, you can replace worry thoughts with other thoughts.
If I imagine the WORST case, then I choose to counterbalance those thoughts with also entertaining the BEST case scenario. It’s only Fair.

For example:
What if…I say something that’s not the greatest in the meeting tomorrow and nothing bad actually happens?

OR

What if…I say something useful in the meeting tomorrow and get acknowledged for my contribution?

OR even better

What if…I say something brilliant in the meeting tomorrow and get a promotion and a raise?
(It COULD happen! Own it!)

What do you think? Let me know how these tips work for you – send me an email here or comment below.

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