You might not realise how easy it is to create your anxiety and stress. Just by simply asking questions, you can get yourself into a state of heightened fear and panic attacks.
Lack of control
How Rachel used to be chilled and relaxed. Was able to go with the flow, but also had a clear picture and planning of her future. She made a vision board, showing the achievements she was aiming for and the important elements in her life. She had a plan for one year, 5 and 10 years. It kept her focussed and optimistic. Until Covid arrived.
The implications of the pandemic threw her out of her bubble into another type of bubble. Her old bubble where she could take action and measure her results into a new bubble where she felt paralysed and stuck. Rachel wasn’t able to look beyond her bubble and adapt her vision and plan. She kept on thinking ‘If only this pandemic hadn’t struck, I would now be working as a manager’. And then her thoughts popped up about the future. ‘What if this pandemic takes another year? What if my company doesn’t survive? What if I never find a partner?’
Rachel is affected by two hugely unhelpful questions, which are certain to always unsettle. ‘If only…’ brings you into a victim mode, where you blame events or non-events for your current situation. But you would never know how the ‘If only’ would have panned out in real life.
And ‘What if’ is a perfect paraliser, keeping you stuck in fear of disasters. This fear can easily be eliminated if you are answering the ‘what if’ questions. Even though the answers are still a fantasy, it projects the powerlessness into a real situation where you can decide on taking actions.
How to keep the ‘If only’ and the ‘What ifs’ under control?
Both questions invite fantasies. And it is that fantasy that causes powerlessness and anxiety.
When you notice yourself thinking along the lines of ‘if only’, get the STOP sign out. These thoughts don’t serve a purpose.
When you notice yourself thinking ‘What if’ don’t stop there but answer the question. ‘What if I lose my job’ ‘Well, then I have to find another’ ‘What if it takes a long time?’ ‘Well, then I have to move to a cheaper apartment’ ‘What if I don’t like it?’ ‘Well, then I have to move again or stay with a friend for a while’ etc etc. By addressing the question you stop that panicky feeling, look at the reality options, knowing that you can take control. Having no control evokes anxiety.
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