Stress and What If’s

Today, my lecturer said to us “98% of the things you stress about never even happen”. To be honest I think he just made up that statistic but I found it….. interesting. At first I though ‘that can not be true’ because I was almost certain that the things I worry about do happen. But the more I sat and thought about it, the more I saw he was right. So many anxious thoughts enter my head each day. Almost every single minute of the day, my brain whirls with ‘what ifs’. For example, when I get in a lift I think ‘what if the lift stops and I’m stuck in here’ or ‘what if that car decides to drive up the pavement and hit me’ or ‘what if I say the wrong thing and this person won’t like me anymore’. But the lift stops at the floor and I get out, the car carries on driving past me and the conversation I have is perfect and they are my friend. The worries that entered my head don’t fabricate, but I still worry about them, which is what is so frustrating.

Anxiety is also described as having a ‘fight or flight’ response. If you suffer with anxiety (like I do) you could have this fight or flight response multiple, sometimes hundreds of times a day. For a person who doesn’t have anxiety, they would feel this response when they are in a scenario that can put them in danger. But having anxiety gives you this response for almost anything. I have certain things that can trigger my fight or flight response. For example, yesterday morning I woke up with a horrific cold. As I dont get ill very often, when I do get ill I tend to become more anxious. I associate having a cold with having the flu, as a few years ago I had a cold and then the flu one after another, so developing a cold, which is normal, can become a stressful time. But when I think about it, what is the chance I will get the flu again…… it is a very small chance. Despite this thought being brushed away by the logical part of my brain, subconsciously my body still believes it will happen. I have trouble sleeping (the blocked nose DEFIANTLY doesn’t help with this), I have trouble focusing and I spend so much time worrying about other things in my life. But it will pass. The cold will go, the assessments will pass and events I am dreading will come and go. I know that when I feel anxious, one thing that comforts me is telling myself, ‘this feeling will pass, it has too, it is impossible to feel this way forever’ and it always does.

I have what ifs haunting me all day everyday. I constantly think the worst of everything, almost as if I am preparing myself for that thing to happen, so when it doesn’t happen, I am relived. Being stressed is normal, despite it being very effective on the body and mind. Remember that the things you panic about today will resolve themselves and regardless how much you worry or stress, the world will continue to spin. As I re-read the post before I post it, I realise that to people who don’t suffer with anxiety everyday, it may seem like the things I worry about are irrational and are pointless to worry about. But you have to remember, when someone has anxiety their brain won’t think the way a rational, non anxious brain thinks. Their brain starts to prepare them for the things they worry about so that if they do happen (which is a tiny chance it will) then they at least have the comfort that they saw it coming. After all, we all love the feeling that we were right. Anxious brains crave to know that they were right about what they were worrying about, it makes them feel like their worries are rational. Trust in what I say, I am describing my own brain.

So if you find yourself dreading on the what ifs and being stressed about situations you can not control, think of the words of my lecturer – “98% of the things you stress about never even happen”.

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