Tip #36: Next time anxiety bombards you with What ifs?, ask yourself: So what?
The why: It is a universal truth (believe me, I’ve checked with the intergalactic federation of correctness) that one of the most anxiety-inducing questions ever to be asked is: What if?
What if I go on stage to make a speech and all my clothes fall off?
What if I take a trip to another country and get lost?
What if I ask someone on a date and they just laugh and I’m posted on their family group chat to be ridiculed?
What if I say yes to this party and I have no one to speak to?
When you have anxiety, almost everything you intend to do is followed by the phrase “What if?”
Your mind, with its brilliant and limitless imagination, then concocts a series of equally awful and terrible scenarios which span the entire realm of possibility, from public humiliation all the way to some sort of firey death.
It’s amazing the power of one little question, isn’t it?
Those two words have stopped me from travelling the world, being open with my feelings, leaving behind toxic people, submitting my poetry to competitions, saying yes to exciting social events with people I love and very nearly stopped me from even beginning this blog.
The words ‘what if?’ are immediately associated with fear, and all the things that could go wrong.
So how do we defeat these evil little letters?
There are two weapons we can use here in our anti-anxiety arsenal to overcome them.
First, you can flip the script and turn that negative into a positive like some kind of awesome alchemist.
Next time you’re about to do something and that little voice of self-doubt comes bursting in with a 100 piece symphony orchestra singing ‘What if?’ in operatic high-pitched tones:
Instead of thinking of what could go wrong, think of what could go right.
What if I go on stage and make a brilliant speech that inspires the masses?
What if I travel to this amazing place and have a life-changing experience?
What if they say yes to the date and we get married? (Okay, maybe slow down a little with this one, but you get the point).
Turn the negative what ifs into visualising the best case scenario for every situation.
Reprogramme your mind to see the positive outcomes, rather than just the highly-unlikely awful ones.
Because yes, sometimes things go wrong.
But if the best-case scenario that you’ve visualised in your mind’s eye is so brilliant, it’s worth doing.
Second, turn those ‘what ifs?’ into ‘so whats?’
The second line of attack is to get rid of those words altogether, and transform them into a more positive, brave and bring-it-on phrase: So what?
Let your mind create all the awful, horrible, humiliating scenarios it can. Then turn to it, chin up, chest puffed and say ‘So what?’
So what if the worst-case scenario happens?
Come up with a solution.
Make contingency plans in your head for if things go bad, so then when you go into the situation, you feel prepared and not scared.
Know that you will get through it anyway.
Even if things do go wrong, which they probably will not, for whatever reason, know that it will be okay. It’s not the end of the world. In five years time, you probably won’t even remember it happened.
Asking so what? does two things.
- It forces your mind to adopt a ‘bring it on’ attitude that reduces your anxiety and puts you in fight, not flight, mode.
- It tells your mind that you aren’t afraid. That even if things go wrong, you trust yourself enough to know that you will be fine.
Plus, mistakes make for great (and hilarious) anecdotes.