“What if I lose my job?”

“What if I can’t pay my rent?’

“What if my car breaks down and I can’t afford to repair it?”

“What if I can’t pay for my electricity?”

The what-ifs were being fired at me at an increasingly faster rate. Simone was clearly getting more and more anxious as each question came blurting out. She was breathing faster, obviously getting increasingly agitated.

I waited for her to pause for breath. When she did, I asked her to listen to me. I spoke slowly and quietly. I asked her to slow her breathing and to consciously relax. As she did so, I began explaining to her about a major cause of anxiety – her whatifs.

When we think about possible future events, our anxiety levels naturally increase. This is because:

– We are thinking about an event in the future, an event that we have no control over precisely because it is in the future. We can control a lot of the now, but none of the future. Therefore, when we think about a future event that we have no control over, we can easily feel out of control, powerless, or both. When we feel out-of-control and/or powerless, we naturally feel anxious.

– This type of thinking is a passive response to a dreaded future. Feeling passive in response to a negative event again leaves us feeling as if we have no control, and therefore anxious.

Thus thinking about the whatifs directly increases our anxiety. Therefore it becomes very important that we stop ourselves whatifing by distracting ourselves to focus on something else, preferably something we do have control over.

Simone listened, and nodded. She looked relaxed. She then said “What if I stop worrying?”

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