Updated: Aug 29, 2021
The same conversation is popping up around town, on social, with teens and tweens, and parents - BACK TO SCHOOL WORRIES.
What if I don't have friends in my classes? What if I don't make the team? What if I have no one to sit with at lunch? What if I get bad grades? What if my teacher doesn't like me? What if I said the wrong thing to the wrong person and everyone hates me? What if I don't know what I want to be when I grow up so I don't know what to focus on? WHAT IF????????
What-iffing makes us worry.
And these worries are borrowed. They are not yours to keep. They are not yet true. It is needless worry. Unsubstantiated, anticipated, without evidence, and painful. So painful!
The thing is your brain is wired to anticipate potential harm and the reason for that is sound: if the threat was a big toothed animal. But you will not find a saber toothed tiger at school. You also can't pretend the fear isn't happening. Because your brain IS thinking of the what-ifs. Your brain is leading you to the painful, stressful stories you are making up in your head. Your brain is practicing solutions for all the what-ifs you have given it to think about.
To make what-iffing WORSE try these things:
Pretending they don't exist. I dare you to take a good go at this one. They will double or triple in size and intensity. Before you were just a little worried, now you are shaking with anxiety and stress!
Listen to people who say (and I am guilty of this!!) "everything is going to be ok". How do they know? Can they even understand what you are going through? No one gets it and no one cares.
Be mad at yourself for worrying. Your inner voice, the one that is with you all day every day, says mean things to you about your worries.
NONE of these things will make your worries go away.
To make what-iffing BETTER try these things:
NOTICE that you are what-iffing. I use this line, "A story I am making up in my head is..." This reminds me of where the worry came from and who is in charge of it.
SAY it out loud. This allows you to clarify what the worry is. If you are worried about everything, start making a list so that you can chip away at the worries you are feeling.
RE-WRITE the endings to your what-if stories. If in your worries you ended up with no one to sit with at lunch, revise the story and picture yourself eating lunch with a group of friends! Try to make the revised endings realistic and don't pretend the worry isn't there but keep the ending of the story in line with the actual worry. (For instance, saving you from sitting alone at lunch should not be a zombie apocalypse).
BE IN THE MOMENT: try to take in the information that IS TRUE. Instead of planning for the future, live in the present. (OK, this is hard, I get it...) But try a quick breathing exercise, I like square breathing, and look around to see what is actually going on.