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How My Husband Inspired Me to Change My ‘What If’ Anxiety Thinking

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What if I have a panic attack and faint? What if I get a migraine? What if can’t get my laptop to work at my presentation and everyone will think I’m “stupid?” What if I get fired because of it? What if I lose my job and can’t pay my bills? What if I get sick? What if my family is disappointed in me?

Just writing this is already making me break out in a cold sweat. If you have anxiety like me, you know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s lying awake at night with worry, having intrusive thoughts during the day or just generally feeling as if your mind is racing at a million miles per hour, coming up with new horror scenarios every waking minute — the constant overthinking is like torture. It’s relentless and feels completely beyond your control.

I have struggled with anxiety all my life. I worry excessively about every little detail in my life. And I don’t just overthink the bad stuff. I also “what if” myself into a panic about good things. If I’m going out on a date night with my husband, I’m going to plan 10 different outfits in my head for every possible weather condition, research the menu online and overthink what I’m going to order and what the waiter will think about me. In the end, I might even get so stressed out that I’m giving myself a migraine attack and we can’t go.

Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about my writing and how I would love to turn it into my job. It’s not an easy thing to do and naturally, I was expressing a lot of worries about it. What if people don’t like my writing? What if I’m actually really bad at it? What if no one cares about what I have to say? What if I’m never going to be able to make money with it? I was caught in my typical spiral. But I noticed that my husband rebuked every concern I had. He either offered solutions or told me that we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Usually, this annoys me because I feel as if he isn’t taking my concerns seriously. But this time, I noticed a distinct difference in our thinking patterns that I had never thought about before. When I start thinking in “what if” scenarios, it creates an open loop. It’s an open-ended question that only leads to more questions and concerns. And so, of course, my thoughts start spiraling out of control. My husband, on the other hand, thinks in “if/then” statements. If problem A arises, then I will use solution B. And so he stops thinking about it. I never think like that.

Since realizing this, I’ve started to try and use my husband’s way of thinking whenever my “what if” panic sets in. And this has led me to another realization about my anxiety. One of the reasons I worry so much is because I don’t trust myself to be able to employ the solutions. I always think I’ll fail at everything I touch. So naturally, every problem is a catastrophe to me. And that’s what starts my “what if” cycle.

So, along with working on my thinking patterns, I also need to confront my fears. When my anxiety tells me I can’t do something, I absolutely have to try. Maybe I really won’t be able to do it. But most likely, I’ll be successful. By testing my abilities and creating new experiences, I can gain a better understanding of how useless my worrying is. I used to think that it prepared me for every possible situation and then I’d be ready for anything. But the opposite is true. It freezes me and stops me from doing anything.

I’ve been in a process of confronting my fears in little steps. Instead of worrying and procrastinating about things, I try to actively engage in solving problems and set myself goals for what I want to get done during the week. When I get anxious, I’ve been using positive affirmations as well as reminding myself of the victories I’ve already had the past few weeks. This always boosts my confidence and reminds me that what I’m doing is beginning to have positive effects.

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Originally published: October 8, 2020
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