If I find myself in a situation that is stressing me out, I make sure I swap any “what if” thoughts with “what is.”
I need to credit Soar: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying, which was instrumental in helping me get back on an airplane after an 8-year fear-induced hiatus, for this awesome tactic.
More on flying another time.
Executing the “what is” technique is simple. The goal is to surround yourself with facts and data and look at what is actually happening rather than trusting the stories that your brain is manufacturing.
Let’s pretend you’re off balance because you have a work presentation and you find yourself nervous beforehand. You might start to think, what if I bomb this presentation? I might turn red or pass out and publically humiliate myself. Or, worse yet, lose my job!
It can quickly start to feel like the end of the world. But then ask yourself, what is?
How many people do you know who have been fired before fired for a bad presentation? How many people do you know that don’t get nervous before public speaking? Haven’t you read countless times that even the most successful and poised and famous people get the jitters on occasion?
It’s normal. Perfectly, normal.
Once you introduce the “what is” thinking habit into your life, you will be amazed at how much time your brain spends making shit up. And you’ll be equally surprised at how much of that garbage you allow yourself to believe.
Some people, especially those prone to anxiety like myself, will immediately go to the worst case scenario on harp on that. But for every person who has gotten stuck upside down on a roller coaster, there are millions that have ridden successfully. For every person who has jumped into a lake, how many have ever gotten a flesh-eating or brain-eating disease? And on and on and on.
Incorporating more of an analytical thought process into your life can save you lots of worries.