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The “What If” Train

Is your child getting anxious about going back to school? Or are you getting anxious about your child going back to school? Or anxious about anything, for that matter?

Well, people tend to get on what I call the “What If Train”. This is when we start to ruminate on something we have no control over. Just today, I was talking to a young lady who was worried that she would end up sitting alone at lunch this year. Boy, we can all relate to that one!

When we get on the “What If Train”, there are a few things we can do to help us jump off at the next stop instead of crashing into an anxious, used up heap at the end of the line. Here’s a few tips for getting off the “What If Train”, whether it is about school, work, kids, the past, or the present:

  1. Become aware of it. Whenever we are ruminating  (thinking about the same thing over and over) we are on the “What If Train”. If you don’t know you’re on the train, it is hard to step off.
  2. Ask yourself, “What is the one message that helps me stop this train?” This might be telling yourself that you need more information, you did the best you could, you don’t know until you get there, you know it wasn’t really your fault. There is usually one thought that will stop the train, at least for a few minutes. Use that thought, repetitively and relentlessly, until you can get off the train!
  3. Use your five senses to ground yourself. When you are on the “What If Train” and you recognize it, get your brain occupied with being in the present. I call this “Thinking Like a Horse”, but it goes by many other names. Just ask yourself (or your child): What are you seeing? What are you smelling? What are you tasting? What are you hearing? What are you feeling (touch feeling vs. internal feelings). This puts you in the present which automatically pulls you off the “What If Train”. It’s a great exercise for the brain.
  4. Be prepared. The more prepared we are for an upcoming stressful situation, the less stressful it will be. So get prepared, and then jump off the train!

 

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About the Author : Holly Jedlicka


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