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How to Stop Anxiety Stealing The Moment

The “What If?” Game

The "What If?" Game: How to Stop Anxiety Stealing The Moment

The “what if?” game. We all play it sometimes. What if I mess up this presentation? What if they don’t like me? What if something terrible happens? These never-ending spirals of worry can leave us feeling paralysed and rob us of the present moment.

But what if there was a way to break free from this mental ping pong?

The good news is, there is! Here are some strategies to tackle those “what if?” thoughts and take back control of your mind:

1. Recognise the voice of catastrophising: The first step is awareness. Notice when your mind goes down the “what if?” rabbit hole. Is it a familiar voice?

2. Challenge the “What If?” with reality: Not all “what ifs?” are created equal. Ask yourself: How likely is this worst-case scenario to actually happen? What evidence do I have to support this worry? Often, a calm and honest evaluation reveals the situation isn’t nearly as bad as our anxiety makes it seem.

3. Worst-case scenario? Now what?: Sometimes, exploring the dreaded worst-case scenario can be surprisingly helpful. Imagine the absolute worst outcome of your worry. Could you handle it? Would the world end? Most likely, you’d find ways to cope, even in a difficult situation.

4. Shift to “What now?”: Instead of dwelling on the unknown future, refocus on the present moment. What can you control right now? Taking action, even in small steps, is a powerful way to interrupt anxiety and regain a sense of agency.

5. Practise mindfulness: Techniques like meditation and deep breathing can help train your mind to stay present. By focusing on your breath or bodily sensations, you learn to observe your thoughts without getting swept away by them. Take a look at my blog on Breathing Techniques for more help with this.

6. Develop a “What if?” filter: Create a mental filter for your “what ifs?” Is this worry productive? Is it helping me solve a problem, or just making me feel worse? If it’s not helpful, try to let it go!

Remember: You are not your thoughts! “What if?” thoughts are just that – thoughts. With practice, you can learn to recognise them, challenge their power, and choose to focus on the present moment where you have the most control.

So, the next time you find yourself caught in the “what if?” game, remember these tips. Take a breath, challenge those anxious thoughts, and step back into the present moment.

You’ve got this!