When I’m spinning in a sea of anxiety or worry about the future, the reoccurring theme tends to be sentences beginning with “what if…”. And these sentences always end with some worst-case-scenario I’ve managed to conjure up in the midst of my panicked state.
Does this help? No.
These “what ifs” are a pain in the arse. But the good thing about them is, they are so flippin’ obvious. When I learnt that a sentence beginning “what if” is a sentence based upon our anxiety in that moment, it made me suddenly aware of every time I said that, that it was not me talking – it is anxiety or worry.
A while back I then began to make a pact with myself, that when these stressful worries hit home, I will challenge the negative what if’s, with a positive one: “what if…everything is going to be okay?”
That sure shuts the anxiety up. It’s almost like I respond with a, “oh yeah…didn’t think of that”.
It doesn’t stop it. The fear tends to come back seconds or minutes later, but the intensity has softened. Just the impact of challenging the negative ‘what ifs’ is huge. It’s like giving the anxiety a giant slap in the face. Give it a try. This pact just kind of came one morning, when I realised I was constantly hearing reassurance from friends that everything will be okay…that everything is okay…so what if I started to think that too? I have always known, out of these anxiety moments, that it is going to be okay (and that it is really okay), but here I am talking about when you’re in those blinding moments of “what if” thinking. When you’re swimming about in negative thinking and negative future tripping. That is when I just wasn’t able to think it might be okay…EVER. Every single worst case scenario under the sun – the most ridiculous and the most possible – would come into my mind at some point. And so I began to train myself to think of all those words of reassurance from friends in those moments. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t. But just bringing these thoughts to the surface, brings that possibility to the surface too. The possibility that everything could actually be okay…
Sure, I don’t know how. And often I really cannot see how it ever will be, would be, could be…etc, etc. But the fact is, just as much as I don’t know exactly how it is going to be okay, I don’t know exactly how it would not be okay either. All we know to be true is what is happening now. All this fretting about the future just winds up this anxiety even more.
It is, of course, easier said than done. But just the simple act of challenging that notion that the future is going to be just as hard as the present, brings to your awareness that maybe actually, things could be okay?
I know they will be really. I know they are really. I just wish that anxious voice would hear that too. But you know what? Everything is here to teach us, and maybe this anxiety is here to teach me to stand up to it and tell it to back-the-hell-off, because my heart knows it will be okay and that is what matters. My mind and its worries can take a hike. Anxiety gives you this need to make your connection with your heart and inner wisdom as strong as can be, rather than living with such a connection to our spinning and wondering mind, so that is something to be thankful for. Because that is a resource that is invaluable for life.