Stopping the "What Ifs"
Have you ever been concerned about what might happen as a result of something you say, a text, or an email? Oh, and what about the stress and tension we feel waiting for the response to a text or email, especially if it may spark a questionable reply?! Your chest may tighten as you press Send. Your heart may start to pound faster and faster with each passing second that there’s no response. It's all you can do to not think about it!
In those situations, do you find yourself in the dizzying thought patterns of the "What If" game? “If she says she doesn’t remember our conversation, I might just lose it.” Or, maybe, “It’s not like him to take this long to respond. What if he’s upset with me?”
Seriously, who hasn’t done this? Just today, this happened to me in two different conversations/email exchanges, and two friends complained to me about the same thing in their own engagements. I think it happens to most and is likely as common as breathing. We can get worked up by the "what ifs," plotting our next move, fearing the worst before the outcome has even revealed itself.
“What ifs” are a good strategy when planning many things wherein you are taking positive action. However, if the “what ifs” are contributing to negative thoughts/feelings, then we need to re-evaluate how the behavior is serving us. The “what if” game is the epitome of living unconsciously. It’s likely just a pattern we are used to.
So, how do you stop the "what ifs"?
First, breathe. Becoming aware of your breath is the first step you can take to become conscious of your reaction.
Second, choose to stop the reaction. You can do like I did and just acknowledge there's no benefit and wait for the response. You may elect to do a bit more, like think of a positive thought or look at a picture of a loved one. While the choice is easy for many, the brain is persistent.* It’ll go back to the pattern it knows. Please know that you’ll have to keep reminding your brain to make a different choice. After some practice, it’ll become easier and easier and you won’t get caught up in the “what if” game.
Be open to what comes.
*I acknowledge many suffer from anxiety and cannot make this choice easily, if at all. I am posting only from my personal experience and what has helped me, and may be beneficial to others. This post is not intended to serve as medical advice.