“What if they don’t like me? What if I do my best and it’s not good enough? What if I put myself out there and get hurt?” “What if you’re reading this right now and thinking I don’t ask these questions? See? Anxiety can happen to anyone. Even yours truly. And that’s because at the heart of anxiety is fear, which is a very natural emotion. In fact, our nervous systems are hard wired for fear and designed to detect and respond to both real and imagined danger. And when I say “imagined” I don’t mean that your fear isn’t valid. I mean that often anxiety is rooted in the future events that haven’t happened yet.
Because we’re programmed to survive at all costs, anxiety also serves an important protective function. And protecting ourselves is a good thing, right? Of course! Unless it leads to chronic worrying and overthinking, which doesn’t feel very good. So, when we open the “what if” door in our mind it’s safe to say a “case of the what ifs”and a tendency to overthink isn’t far behind.
What a case of the “what ifs” feels like
If you’ve ever been stuck in the “what if” loop you may experience some or all of the following sensations in your body:
· Blurry vision
· Stomach pain
· A tight sensation in your throat
· Tingling in your feet and hands
· Difficulty concentrating
· Difficulty listening to others
· Feeling easily irritated
· Crying easily
· Wanting to isolate yourself from others
· Feeling more tired than usual
Everyone’s body reacts differently to anxiety and stress so this list is by no means comprehensive. You may actually notice other signs your body is in a fear loop. It’s a good idea to track these when you’re in a calmer space, which you can do in so many ways including starting a journaling practice.
How to soothe yourself when the “what ifs” happen
Give yourself extra special attention and love