After the Woolsey fire displaced my husband and I from our home, we experienced a year full of “What if…” questions.
- “What if we can’t get back into the house to pack up what we need?”
- “What if the toxins from the smoke damage makes us sick?”
- “What if we can’t find a place to live that takes dogs?”
- “What if our valuables get lost or stolen?”
- “What if I need my (xyz) while all our things are in storage?”
Our list was long and, clearly, some questions were less dramatic than others, but here’s an important lesson:
Once you start on the “What if..” train, it picks up speed as it takes on more and more “What if…” questions (big or small) along the journey. Anxiety becomes inevitable without the tools to stop the train.
We finally did move home, but only a month later, before the house was even finished, the “shelter in place” order took effect.
Just when we thought our lives would be getting back to normal, we had a whole new list of “What if…” questions upon us.
So what do you do when your mind starts racing from the anxiety caused by those “What if…” questions?
“What if…” questions are fears that surface when we turn our attention to the future and believe we can’t handle the terrible things we’re imagining might happen.
Some of those fears are nothing more than old, worn out stories from our past. We carry them around with us even though they’re no longer true. They add to our perception that we can’t handle the challenges we face in life.
(Learn more about your fears by downloading my free guide on Embracing Your Fears)
In this pandemic, however (just like being displaced from the fire) the fears are valid because the threats to our way of life, our health, and the well-being of our families feel at stake.
Here are three simple steps to prevent them from leading you down the path to anxiety.
Before we begin, create a list of all the fears you have in relation to this pandemic in the form of “What if…” questions.
(Download a free set of worksheets here to help you through the process.)
What fear based thoughts are racing through your mind, keeping you up at night, or crowding out feelings of hope or faith?
Here are a few examples:
- What if I get sick?
- What if I run out of money and can’t buy groceries?
- What if I never find another job?
- What if I fail at homeschooling my children?
- What if I die?
Take a deep breath once you’re done, look at your list and acknowledge that these are only thoughts. They hold no power over you at all.
Look what can happen, though, if you think these thoughts enough times. They become beliefs and soon turn into:
- I’m going to get the virus.
- I’m going to go broke and be hungry.
- I’m going to be forever unemployed.
- My children are going to fail school and it’ll be all my fault.
- The virus is going to kill me.
Slow that train down! We don’t want this to happen because changing a belief is harder to do than choosing better thoughts.
Once you’ve emptied all those, “What if…” questions onto your paper, it’s time to sort them out. So let’s proceed.
STEP ONE – PREPARE
We never want to push away our fear based thoughts without giving them their due diligence. It’s part of the sorting process.
Is it a valid fear? Could it come true? Is it old baggage from the past you can release now that you’re aware of it?
If it’s valid, brainstorm how to PREPARE for it.
The following is an example:
What if I get sick?
That’s valid. So to prepare for that:
- Do you have medicine, a thermometer, a phone number for your physician, and friends or family who can help you?
- Do you have a plan for where you which urgent care or hospital you will go to if you get very ill?
- Have you asked someone if they can take care of your affairs if you require the hospital?
What if I run out of money and can’t buy groceries?
- What are your other resources?
- Who can you call for support ahead of time if it looks like that might happen?
- Do you know how to budget so you can stretch what you have?
- Where are the supplemental food resources in your community?
- Have you applied for local and federal assistance?
What if I never find another job?
Well….words like forever, always, never, etc. are advanced trigger words from your ego trying to convince you of something that is most likely untrue. Take out the word “never” and you have a valid question.
- So, what skills, talents, or resources can you brainstorm to market yourself well?
- Who do you know that can mentor you or what education can you get to learn a new skill?
- Are you willing to take a lower skilled job temporarily while the economy works itself back.
- Can you create your own online business?
What if I fail at homeschooling my kids?
- Are you clear on the expectations of your child from the school?
- Do you have friends or family that would enjoy tutoring in different subjects to help take the stress off you doing it all?
- Are there friends they can go online with to study together to stay motivated?
- Do you have a reasonable schedule set up for your child to help you both stay focused?
- Are there parents from your child’s class that you can have a support call with each week.
What if I die?
- Do you have your legal affairs in order, such as a will or a DNR?
- Do you have guardianship set up for children and pets?
- Do you have an assigned person to take care of your affairs if you go into the hospital or pass away?
STEP TWO – IMAGINE
Now that you’ve respectfully addressed those fear based, “What if…” questions by making all the preparations you can think of, it’s time for step two: “Imagine.”
On another page (get the worksheets here), for each of your “What if…” fear-based questions, answer them from the perspective of your soul.
First, state the question in its opposite form.
Next, imagine all the loving, comforting, creative, solution-oriented responses your soul can bring forward.
Your soul is your Higher Self. It loves and guides you along your life journey in a positive and joyful way.
What can you imagine your soul saying to that frightened part of you to love and comfort it?
Ego (Fear) – What if I catch the virus?
Soul (love) – What if I don’t catch the virus?
- I’ll be so healthy and not even afraid to caretake someone who has it.
- I’ll have time to learn, to improve myself, to bond with my family, or do whatever I want to grow from the experience.
- I’ll find ways to help others who are less fortunate than myself.
Ego (Fear) – What if I run out of money to buy groceries?
Soul (Love) – What if I have plenty of resources to provide for myself?
- I’ll learn how to budget in a way I’ve never done before and be excited to learn how to manage my money well.
- I’ll find resources in my community that help people when they need food and contribute because I’ll already have enough for myself.
- I’ll learn to be gracious when receiving help from others, because I’ll know how it allows others to feel good about themselves.
Ego (Fear) – What if I never find another job?
Soul (Love) – What if I find a better job?
- I’ll find a job that’s closer to home or something I enjoy doing more than my last job.
- I’ll develop a new skill that gives me more freedom and flexibility than I had in my previous job.
- I’ll start my own business instead of getting another job and see how exciting it is to be my own boss.
Ego (Fear) – What if I fail at homeschooling?
Soul (Love) – What if I’m great at homeschooling?
- I’ll learn that homeschooling is really fun and I’ll enjoy all the extra time engaging with my children.
- I’ll learn more about my children’s academic strengths and weaknesses in a way I’ve never witnessed before.
- We’ll all enjoy homeschooling so much we might decide to do it forever.
Ego (Fear) – What if I die?
Soul (Love) – What if I live?
- I’ll do some inner work and learn to embrace my fears and work through them.
- I’ll learn a new skill and be prepared to act on it once the economy opens up again.
- I’ll deepen my relationships with my loved ones and also with myself.
- I’ll discover my purpose and decide to live more in alignment with my values.
Obviously, none of us know how or when we’re going to die. This pandemic isn’t changing that fact.
However, if you choose to spend your time away from the present moment (which is where YOU really are), and engage in a fantasy of the future…
which one do you choose?
The fantasy of your ego (fears) might look like this:
- You’re frozen and unable to think clearly, reading every story of loss or struggle.
- You listen to the news all day for evidence that the worst is coming and spread those fears to others so you don’t feel so alone with it all.
- You binge watch too much television, overeat, or engage in other bad habits that help you avoid the fears.
- You take your frustrations out on your family, and feel hopeless, angry, anxious and/or depressed.
The fantasy of your soul (love) could look like this:
- You hold onto hope and stay strong in your faith,
- You focus on the loving kindness that people are sharing.
- You find ways to express gratitude for the sacrifices of the heroes who are helping others.
- You marvel at the creative solutions people are coming up with.
- You find compassion and patience for the people who have to make the hard decisions to see us through this.
- You ride the wave of emotions and accept that some days you’ll feel better than others. However, you also remember that you can get through hard things and they always make you stronger.
Remember that you create our own reality, so the thoughts you’re thinking are the chapters you’re writing into your life story.
Which story do you want to write? How do you want your pandemic chapter to end?
- A victim of the negative thoughts you fed yourself? OR
- A peaceful soul who created the most positive outcomes you could imagine?
You’ve prepared for the valid warnings.
You’ve imagined a better future story.
Now it’s time to release the anxiety of the fear-based, “What if…” questions.
Step Three – release
Close your eyes now, take three deep cleansing breaths and imagine yourself in a comfortable, relaxing place where there is some kind of movement nearby.
Perhaps you see loose leaves floating down a stream, or fluffy clouds passing overhead where you lay in a field of flowers.
After you feel yourself settled in and relaxed, take each of the “What if…” worries you had and place them into the moving element of your scene.
You can see them written on the leaves floating downstream or pinned in the clouds as they move gently away from your vision.
Feel the space opening up in you as you release those heavy thoughts. Feel empowered as you allow them to move away from you.
When you’re ready and feeling satisfied with the release, you can open your eyes.
You no longer have to live at the mercy of those “What if…” questions that take you down a path to anxiety.
In three easy steps:
Prepare, Imagine, and Release, you can work through this process and write the story you want to live.
A fire kept us locked out of our house for over a year, and ironically, the pandemic is keeping us locked in our house for the unknown future. We can create a story of strife, suffering, and fear or we can create a story of survival, triumph and adventure.
The truth is, it will most likely have a bit of everything.
However, by using these steps, I hope I’ve encouraged you to always play the hero of your story.
Feel free to comment below if you have a helpful solution to staying true to your soul during this challenging time. Other people want to know what’s working for you.