What If? The Never-ending Anxiety and High Stress Question

What If? The Never-ending Anxiety and High Stress Question

How many times have you found yourself asking the “What If” question? What if I lose my job? What if my financial situation changes? What if my loved one leaves me, or worse, dies? In recent times, we have been conditioned to always plan ahead, set goals and make contingency plans. Regardless of how smart and intellectual you may think you are, our brains simply cannot process the infinite possible outcomes of the infinite possible situations that arise in life. But yet, we still try, and this leads us into more and more anxiety driven moments and high stress situations.

The reason we always question What If is that as human beings, we love control. We want to be in control of every situation we find ourselves in. And it might be true to some extent that we can control certain circumstances. We make choices in life, and can decide on things. We can choose where we want to go to dinner, what we think is best for our children and what to wear in the mornings. Sure, there is some level of control there. But what about in the moments where it is impossible to have control? What do we do? We start using the frantic question of What If.

This question, as it may seem at first, might always have an answer, but it can lead to a downward spiral of infinite outcomes and possibilities. When this happens, you are actually doing the opposite of what you set out to do, you have lost control. This is where the anxiety and high stress levels set in. How can that be? How can you lose control, while trying to control a situation? A very wise teacher told me that, “The ultimate form of control, is to have no control at all.” How can that be, how can that make sense, you may ask.

I’ll be the guinea pig here. Flying in an airplane is not on the top of my list of favorite things to do. I used to dread it. High anxiety would flare up. And any time there was a bump in the air, my heart would race. I would continue to ask my self, What If? What if the wing fell off? What if the engine died? What would happen if we started falling out of the sky? What if the plan crashed? What if I didn’t get to say goodbye to all of my family and friends? All of these questions could be answered with a “Then, what if?” I would immediately throw myself in a panic. There was never an answer that could calm me down.

Then, as I learned more about the What If’s in life, I learned there were times that no matter what I could do or say, I wasn’t in control. I tried practicing the release of my need to control situations with the What If questions on my flights. What happened was one, large completely at ease sigh that left my body. We have all experienced that brief moment of peace. That complete surrender to “What Is” instead of What If. When you finally give up trying to control a situation and you simply let it be, because you can’t do anything about it. It is important to note that it is not the feeling of, “Just Screw It”, it is the feeling of relinquishing control and letting everything just be as it is.

Practice this today. Take a few quiet minutes or even 30 seconds to yourself. Take everything in. Look around. Go ahead and even think of your problems. Consciously bring them up. Take them in with a very deep in breath. Take all of your worries in at that point. Then take a very deep, releasing out-breath, knowing that you can’t do anything about them right now. Release all of those worries with that out-breath. This breath doesn’t even have to be forced, just let it go, with all of your worries, and enjoy that out-breath. Notice the calmness after the breath.

There are no What If questions at this point. There is no control, and you are letting everything be as it be.

– Jake Carney

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