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Worry: The 'what if' voice

Updated: May 28, 2019

What if it doesn't work out? What if I fail? What if I look like an idiot? What if? What if? What if (add your worry or fear).

This persistent voice we hear in our heads often comes knocking when we are experiencing uncertainty in some domain of our lives. The 'what if' voice doesn't discriminate between big or small concerns, nor does it prioritise our worries. It just latches onto our worries and plays it over and over like a song on replay.

It's chorus is like an annoying song you can't get out of your head, repetitive and catchy.

It definitely knows how to grab your attention! It thinks it's smart, as you continue to give it the attention it craves, making it stronger and stronger. But, you are smarter! Because you have the capacity within to stop this worry-wart from infiltrating your precious attention.

There are a couple of ways that you can do this:

1. Pay attention to your thoughts. Write down the worry phrases: What if......

2. Analyse your thought. Is it a concrete thought - ie. based on facts. Or it is linked to feelings of fear - ie. a catastrophic type of thought, for example 'If I don't ace this presentation, then my career will be in tatters.'

3. Explore your thought: What would it mean to you to ace this presentation?

4. Challenge this type of thought: Really, how will your career be in tatters?

5. Act with kindness to yourself: Aren't you being hard on yourself? You sound like you are expecting perfection. Think back to similar past situations and how they had panned out. How did reality compare to what you were stewing on?

6. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing your best. Have a positive affirmative mantra, that you tell yourself when the 'What if' voice tries to undermine you.

7. Start a daily meditation practice. Download an App you can listen to

8. Practise abdominal breathing:

8.1 Take a deep breath through your nose into your belly for a count of 4.

8.2 Hold the breath for a count of 1-2.

8.3 Exhale through your nose or mouth for a count of 6 or more.

The more air you can inhale into your belly, the more your belly expands, and the longer your exhale is the more benefit you will get from this exercise.

9. If your 'What if' voice and worry feels too much to deal with, it would be advisable to seek a therapist who can support you with this.

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