When The “What Ifs” Come Knocking
Everyone has moments in their life when they don’t know if they can do something and I’m no different. This is especially true when facing a new, different or stressful situation. You start thinking what if this happens, what if I can’t do it, what if I don’t know how, etc and this just leads to a downward spiral. With a few simple steps, you can stop the “what ifs” from filling your brain with unnecessary stress and what better time to post this as university assignments start to build up!
So, here are my 5 ways to stop the doubt.
When I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I find that I’m able to handle these type of situations better. While I don’t fully understand the science behind it, I believe it definitely has something to do with the rational vs emotional sides of your brain.
This article (here) states that a lack of sleep hampers your ability to think logically and reason. Therefore, when you sleep well, you’re able to rationalise with yourself more, logically go through the situation and combat the “what ifs”, therefore getting the upper hand on your emotions.
I’m not afraid to say that when things get stressful, I turn to Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (you can find more information here). I personally use the drops and place a few drops under my tongue when I feel myself getting worked up or when my brain won’t shut off at night (mostly before a test or event and I’m ticking over things in my mind). I’ve been using Rescue Remedy for years, so now just the taste of it is enough to relax me. It’s all-natural too, so I don’t think you can overdose on it (haha well I haven’t yet anyway).
If you don’t have access to Rescue Remedy, maybe try a herbal tea or something similar, anything that flicks that switch in your mind to a more relaxed state.
Distract yourself/think of something else
This strategy isn’t something I necessarily use for my “what if” moments, but I do use it in other situations, particularly when I have nightmares (I’m a vivid dreamer which I’ll write about in a future post).
By thinking of something else, it distracts you from what is on your mind. This allows you to focus on something else and get yourself in a better mindset. If your “what if” is over a stressful event too, this allows you to take a step back and calm down.
In terms of distractions, this can be anything from listening to music, going to the movies/shops or walking your dog. It’s anything that takes your mind to a different place.
It must be noted that if your “what if” moment is “what if I don’t know the answers to my test”, I don’t recommend this strategy. Instead, focus on studying as prior preparation prevents poor performance! You’ll also feel calmer if you know you’ve studied as much as you can.
Do it over and over/run through it in your head
The more you do something the less scary it becomes, and this is true when it comes to your “what ifs” as well. The unknown is probably what scares people the most, so by repeating the situation you’re able to take this element away, reducing the stress.
However, sometimes it’s not possible to do the event before it occurs. In these situations, I like to run through things in my head (haha maybe it’s because I like to know what’s happening when too). I go through what is going to happen, what I’m going to do, etc. I guess that this adds that element of control back into your life, which is something you lose when the “what ifs” take over.
Surround yourself with people
Surrounding yourself with people can work in two different ways. One, they can support you with whatever you’re going through or two, you’re forced to put on a front.
The first one is probably the people you want to surround yourself with, in this situation. They can tell you it’s going to be ok and offer you that support. Everyone in life needs that person/people in their life that they can debrief with. However, if your what ifs are about a test coming up, it’s probably not helpful to surround yourself with people who are doing that test too, as you’ll just feed off their stress and that’s not going to help you.
If you’re really a complete mess than going out in public may actually help (believe it or not). While this is slightly related to the previous point of distracting yourself, when you surround yourself with strangers you’re forced to put on a front, because who wants to be that embarrassing person who loses it in public (unless you’re in the movies seeing a very sad movie *cough* Red Dog and The Fault in Our Stars *cough*). You know that saying “fake it to you make it”, that’s exactly what you’re doing here and science says that people who put on a fake smile actually feel happier (you can read the scientific reason here).
So, in conclusion, these recommendations aren’t for everyone, but they help me so I hope they can help you!