“What If” thinking is how I would refer to anticipatory anxiety. An anxiety which is experienced with an initial thought of doing something.


Assume that you have an important meeting arranged for next week, and you also know that you have no option, but to attend this meeting. During the lead up to this important meeting, you will no doubt experience anxiety. You will often find yourself asking yourself the “What If” questions.

What if I have a panic attack?
What if I have to leave the room?
What if I pass out?

You are anticipating the event and creating a picture in your mind of negative and scary outcomes, in return for these images in your mind, you are creating a high level of anxiety prior to the event actually happening.

The real truth about “What If” thinking and anticipatory anxiety is that the actual event is rarely as bad as the actual anticipation.

These “What If” thoughts are often the barrier between thinking and doing, these thoughts prior to an event can really put your life on hold, and remove any chance you have at moving forward.

I tempt you to try and try a different approach to your “What If” thinking, the next time you are made aware of a situation where you immediately begin with a “What If” thought. Why not answer this question in your mind with a rational and realistic response.


WHAT IF THOUGHT: I get stuck at traffic lights whilst driving in the car?

RATIONAL/RELAISTIC ANSWER: I’ll be fine, I’ve sat at traffic lights before and no harm came to me, the worst that can happen is that I’ll feel anxious, but I know this cannot harm me.

The key to ending “What If” thinking is avoiding avoidance. Everytime we create a What If thought, we create a reason to avoid a certain situation. How many opportunities have you missed out on due to a What If thought?

Avoiding a situation because of anticipatory anxiety will only create more fear the next time you are faced with it. The real answer here is to, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Anticipation of an event happens to everyone on the planet at some point, it could be a wedding or a meeting, or even simply leaving your home. Everyone in their lifetime feels anxiety due to anticipation, it’s all down to how people control and interpret this anticipation.

Anxiety is a good thing in certain situations, without anxiety or anticipation the world would be a crazy place. People would be doing all kinds of things without thinking about consequences and their own safety.

I want you to take this away from reading this post….

The next time you ask yourself “What If?” in a negative light, ask yourself straight after…. What If it doesn’t happen? What If this goes well?

Anticipation can be seen as a positive or negative experience. We can still look forward to events even though they may be anxiety provoking and making us nervous at the thought, but these events may be something that could change the way we live our lives forever. Or, we can dread these events, and avoid these situations which may be causing our anticipatory anxiety, resulting in missed opportunities and a sinking depression.

Start choosing the answers to your “What If” thoughts wisely, use them in a positive light and you will notice a difference in the way you feel in the lead up to any situation.

by Billy Cross

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