We all have those negative "what if" moments. Some of them can be more serious than others.
"What if it hurts?"
"What if I fail?"
"What if I lose my job?"
"What if they say no?"
“What if I can’t come back from this?”
These "what ifs" can feel scary, even paralyzing, at times. I recently had a conversation about being paralyzed by these thoughts. We discussed at length how the doubts invaded the person's mind to a point that it was affecting their well-being. They crept into their relationships, their job performance, and their interactions with their kids. The "what ifs" had most of the control in this person's life. I even dare to say the anxiety related to these thoughts was slowly strangling them and preventing them from moving forward.
This particular person came to me because they were at a loss of what to do. How could they even take one step away from the negative "what if" mentality?
I suggested we practice being intentionally present and shift from thinking "what IF" to "what IS". The truth is that "what if" thinking lives in the future that hasn't happened yet. It's where anxiety and fear live as well. "What is", however, is calmer, more centered, and focused on now. Taking control over the thought process from this perspective greatly decreased this person's anxiety levels, gave them a greater sense of peace, and allowed them to take control over the fear that used to consume them.
Shifting to a present mindset and focusing on "what is", allows for more clarity and control over one's thoughts.
When I work with children, I like to borrow a useful tool I learned from my many years of volunteering at Judi's House in central Denver. They call it the "Coping Companion" and it helps kids identify their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and body reactions. In the center of it all is an internal traffic light. The facilitators at Judi's House teach the kids that they have the control over their personal traffic light to stop, slow down, and then take action.
I love teaching not only the children that I work with this technique, but also the couples and families as well (maybe a more adult version though). Especially if a client is struggling with feelings of fear and/or anxiety, this tool is incredibly helpful for beginners to mindfulness practices. An integral key about using it is that once you access the traffic light and become more mindful about "what is", everything after that stems from your thoughts. Therefore, if you can slow down and take control over your thoughts, the feelings, behaviors, and body reactions become much more manageable as well.
If you feel yourself slipping into "what if" territory more often than you'd like, I'd love to help you shift to a healthier "what is" mentality. Please contact me at 720-381-2755 or by email at tradewindstherapy at gmail dot com. Let's get you back to the present and begin enjoying your life again.