Managing Anxiety and "What Ifs"

We’re constantly told how bad chronic stress is for the welfare of our health. It is a serious matter that needs to be reduced and controlled for the sake of your physical, psychological, and emotional health. How can you control chronic stress when it is influenced by factors outside of your control? It starts with managing your responses to life’s “what ifs.” What if I don’t get the promotion? What if my partner leaves me? What if this is more than just a cough? What if my wants won’t truly make me happy? Life’s “what ifs” are driven by fear, worry, and intensified by imagination, anticipation of potential threats and their potential consequences. How can you manage the resulting anxiety?

Separate Well-Founded Worries from Unnecessary Worries

There are plenty of real, well-founded pressures in the world, involving financial security, relationship security, physical security, and/or health. Well-founded worries are rooted in fact and based on good reasoning and judgement. If layoffs are happening at work and you were the last hired, concern about being let go is well-founded. Worries that are not well-founded are not based on fact, good reasoning, or evidence. Separating these two factors is essential as it can help tame unfounded worry and take constructive action if the worst does come to pass with legitimate concerns.

Retrain Your Thoughts

Your thoughts have a very strong and powerful influence on how you feel, both physically and emotionally. That’s why one of the most important steps you can take to mitigate and reduce your anxiety is to start retraining your thoughts. For instance: concentrate on more positive thoughts so that you can reduce that doubt and focus instead on what you can control rather than allowing negative worries to snowball.

Find Coping Strategies for Your Anxiety

Eliminating stress all of the time simply isn’t possible. There will always be outside pressures and even with the best foot forward things can go sideways. There are effective ways that can help you manage anxiety in the face of an uncertain future. One important method is exercise. Staying active provides your body and mind with the reprieve and rejuvenation and releases feel-good hormones that reduce stress, improve mood, and make other stress management techniques even easier, such as getting a good night’s sleep.

Life is never certain, and even with utmost preparation and planning there will be speed bumps on your life’s path. Focus on being present in the moment, not on worrying about what the road may look like ten kilometers ahead, and you can begin to tame those feelings of uncertainty, threat and fear.

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