Feelings of anxiety can affect anyone and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the sensation can be overwhelming and paralyzing making getting through the day challenging at best. Many clients I work with express their feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress — and we work through this from a coaching perspective. The majority of the time the anxiety is reduced or quelled entirely in a matter of minutes with a short conversation and reframing their mindset.
Here is the process in 3 easy steps with 2 Questions and 1 Mantra:
Question #1: “What expectation is not being met?”
When we can think through a problem in order to discover the expectation we may have that aren’t being met, then we learn what we are working with. What are you anxious about right now? What had you expected would happen with respect to that situation? Did someone not deliver something you have been waiting on and now the task you need to do is delayed? Was something scheduled to happen and it didn’t and now you are ruminating on the ramifications of that mishap? Write down what expectation you had that fell short in whatever way, and sit with it for a minute and assess if that is the root of the anxiety for you right now. Once you have found the real culprit for your anxiety – move on to this question: What decision are you afraid of making moving forward? What would such a decision mean for you, or others? Are you able and capable to implement the next move?
Now ponder Question #2:
“What is the worst that can happen?”
This is my favorite question that has pretty much eradicated anxiety from my life and the lives of others I have worked with. Often, we THINK bad stuff will happen when in reality maybe one small bad thing MIGHT happen. Think this through without going down the rabbit hole of dismay about all the super terrible things that might potentially happen.
Knowing potential outcomes of the various scenarios help to reduce the tendency to spiral out of control. Having that awareness and even a small sense of CERTAINTY helps many feel more content and less stressed or anxious. List the potential ramifications of the action you are considering taking. Will someone actually be harmed? Will you lose your job? Will you destroy a friendship/relationship? The vast majority of the time the worst that will happen is you are exactly where you are/were before doing anything — so in essence you have nothing to lose at all. Except a little time. Doing nothing can often lead to more anxiety than if you try to make some change in whatever situation is presenting itself. I have even gone so far as to ask myself:
Will I, or anyone, die from this? The answer has always been “no,” so I have been able to move forward on whatever I was confronted with. Looking at the situation from a different perspective causes a shift to remove the anxiety around it.
Of course, if you are someone who catastrophizes frequently and quickly, this process will take practice. You may want to work with a therapist if that is your ‘go to’ place in your head.
Now for the Mantra: “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.”
Stuff happens. For all the planning we do, there will most likely be an issue or change along the way. Knowing this can help you manage situations as they arise and come to grips with changes that occur. This mantra isn’t meant to be negative– it is about being realistic and considering the potential mishaps and still going forward with the hope (and even assumption) that the outcome will be wonderful. Considering possible alternate outcomes allows us to devise strategies to circumvent a situation before it gets out of hand. Expending energy on the front end by worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet – and may never materialize – is a waste of our resources. If things don’t go exactly as you expected and you had some solutions thought through in advance – you need not worry. Keep in mind that nothing is perfect and expecting perfection leads us back to Question #1 (dealing with unmet expectations).
Since worry can often lead to anxiety, stress, and even depression – be careful not to go down that path when you might very well have a wonderful result. Work to keep a positive mindset and see if that helps manifest the result you truly wish to have happen. You can avoid that slippery-slope of stress by considering what you could do should things go poorly – and at the same time move ahead with hope that all will go great overall. Work to maintain a positive mindset so your negative self-talk does not take the lead.