Earlier this week, I found myself mired in an endless spiral of “what if’s.” What if I never feel safe again? What if I get sick? What if this never ends? Of course, any thought that starts with “what if” is just another form of worry, and we all know that worry is a complete waste of time and energy. That said, I think you’d have to be superhuman to not worry during these unprecedented times.
As I kept trying to bring myself back to the present moment, I realized that I could turn the “what if’s” into something positive, and I started to make a mental game out of it. I found that doing that helped me short circuit the cycle of worry and anxiety.
I thought you might find this technique helpful. Here are some of my examples:
Anxiety provoking: What if I can never hug my friends again?
Calming: I may not be able to hug my friends right now, and only see them on a screen, but I can let myself imagine how joyous each and every single reunion will be when we can finally be together again.
Anxiety provoking: What if I can never travel again?
Calming: Even though I can’t go anywhere right now, I can start thinking about places I might feel safe visiting once restrictions are lifted. I may not be comfortable with getting on a plane for a while, but I could visit friends within driving distance. Staying at someone’s house, where I know everything will be cleaned to my standards, feels safer right now than staying at a hotel.
Anxiety provoking: What if this never ends?
Calming: Anything with the word “never” in it is irrational. Nobody can predict the future with 100% certainty. “This too shall pass” is one of the more trite things people say in situations like this. While I may agree with the sentiment, it doesn’t feel helpful to me. If anything, it feels dismissive, but at the same time, of course, like most worn out sayings, there’s truth in it. So while “this too shall pass” may not be my choice of words, I have to believe that this pandemic will end. Our lives may never be the same as they were before this started, but maybe they’ll be better? I’m holding on to the hope that we will all emerge from our collective lockdown to a stronger, kinder, more compassionate and connected world.
Do you struggle with the “what if’s?” What has helped you cope?