Author: Allison Sutherland, NLP Coach. For more information on Allison or click here
No? I wouldn’t either. In fact, nobody in their right mind would do that – it’s crazy! It’s just like spending lots of time and energy on worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might never come to pass. Isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, we do need to prepare ourselves for future situations such as interviews or difficult conversations. It would be silly not to, but what I’m talking about isn’t planning; it’s just worrying. I’m talking about when we go round in circles asking “what if” again and again without actually deciding what to do.
Take a moment now to honestly consider how much time you spend worrying about what might happen tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. If you’re completely honest with yourself you might be surprised at how much time and energy you waste on such a fruitless activity. I’ll wait a moment while you let that sink in …
As you’re thinking about that, you might also want to consider that your brain doesn’t know the difference between something that’s really happening, something that you’re watching (i.e. a film) or something you’re imagining. When you spend time worrying you trigger exactly the same physical responses in your body that you would get if it was actually happening.
So, as you’re imagining that difficult conversation or potential bad news your body is releasing cortisol (stress hormone) and possibly adrenaline, triggering your fight or flight response, suppressing your immune system and generally just messing up your physical health. If you tend to be a worrier, there’s a high chance that you are doing this to your body a lot of the time. Is that what you want? How much interest have you paid on that non-existent money already?
The good news is that there are ways to stop this cycle and train your mind to find better things to do with your time and energy. If you’re wondering how, read on!
So how do I stop?
The first trick to learn is identifying those unhelpful thoughts. You can practice this by exploring some of the common thoughts you have. Maybe they go something like this:
“Oh no, I might have to speak to him tomorrow and he might be in a bad mood and say something about “that thing” and then I might get upset. Maybe I just won’t bother going.”
“What if I get made redundant? What will I do? Could I get another job? What if I can’t? OMG I’ll end up losing the house and I’ll be homeless and won’t be able to feed myself …”
“I’ve got that interview tomorrow. What if they ask me something and I can’t answer the question? I’m going to look stupid and then I’ll screw the whole thing up. It will be a total disaster.”
Did you notice that those thoughts are full of what ifs and maybes? None of it is fact, it’s all just speculation and building things up out of all proportion.
Once you’re able to identify when you’re catastrophising like this, it is easier to take control of those thoughts and to question their validity. You can start to ask yourself what facts the thoughts are based on; how likely it is that these things will happen; where is the proof; and whether it’s even your problem to worry about. Challenge your mind to prove to you why these things are even worth considering.
If you do decide that there is a valid reason behind those thoughts, develop strategies for what you’ll do if it does come to fruition. Let’s use potential redundancy as an example. There are many ways that you could devise strategies so that you are prepared for any outcome that you can imagine.
Maybe you could choose to look at the job market to see what options are available; perhaps you could submit your CV to some agencies and let them do the legwork; when they offer interviews you can decide which ones to attend; if you do go for interviews it’s then up to you to choose whether you accept any job offers.
By taking these actions you will be able to stop worrying because you’ll know what job options you’ll have. Other things you could do include reviewing your household budget and identifying where savings can be made; looking at alternative housing to see what’s available; looking at jobs closer to home to reduce travel costs. There are always options that can be considered, even if they’re not perfect it’s still better to have alternatives to fall back on.
But I’m not being made redundant so this doesn’t apply to me
Great! In that case, think about what areas of your life you DO feel anxious about, identify those “what if” thoughts, challenge them and think of strategies you can put in place. You can decide how you will handle all sorts of things that we fret about such as health, relationships and money. By taking time to think through some strategies for your “what ifs” you will feel much more in control.
Strategies provide calm!
Now that you have your plans in place, take a moment to assess how much better it feels to know that if one of these events happens you know how you’re going to deal with it. Notice how much calmer your mind is now that it has plans instead of worries.
If you find that you’re still struggling to do this on your own, it might help to talk it through with a trusted friend or family member. Of course, if you want completely impartial assistance it will be worth investing in some coaching to help you focus and find the strategies that will really work for you.
Whatever you choose to do, choose now to stop paying interest on that money you never even borrowed.
All the best,