Lifestyle Parenting

Anxiety Management: Shifting Your Mindset

by Wendie Trubow, MD, MBA February 16, 2021
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When reports first surfaced last year of a “novel coronavirus”, I don’t think any of us foresaw how negatively impactful Covid would be.  But since then, all of our lives have been upended. As a provider, the most noticeable consequence of Covid has been the drastic rise in anxiety…individually, societally, and globally.  

Anxiety is a guest who has overstayed her welcome!

So let’s stop feeding her, ok? She thrives on uncertainty, lack of knowledge and plan-less states. The quickest way to starve her? Change the conversation.

Let me tell you about Jenna. I spoke with Jenna recently and she was spending the month in Arizona (We live in Boston, and she decided to “get out of Dodge” for a month in the winter.  Since she has a flexible job, she can work anywhere, so she and her husband figured “Why not?).  

We spoke one day as a winter storm was brewing, and we were slated to get 15 inches of snow and widespread power outages. Not a huge deal, but this was the first time her high-functioning autistic twins were staying home alone. While she was on the other side of the country!  

Her most pressing concern was: “What if they lose power?!!!”

And this is where training your mind comes in. Because honestly? That’s the wrong question to ask!  The question “what if they lose power” puts the responsibility for how things occur in the hands of fate. We have no idea if they will or won’t lose power, and we can’t control that factor. 

But what we can control is how we respond to it. So I told Jenna she was asking the wrong question, and invited her to reframe and retrain her thoughts so that they empowered her. 

What do I mean by this? Essentially, anxiety that centers around “what ifs” don’t leave us much space to take control.  

So try this:

Take your “what if” and tweak it a little. Instead of saying “What if they lose power?” ask yourself “What will I do if they lose power?” From that: “What actions do I need to take that will take care of my kids should they lose power?”

Another thing to guard against is the fear of the worst case scenario. When our other business closed, I was overcome by fear and anxiety. Were we going to lose our house?  What would happen if we did? I wasn’t able to answer the first question, but I WAS able to play out the worst case scenario. And when I did, I realized that I could live with the worst case. It didn’t take away my sadness over the failure of the company, but it did give me some space and power to know that we’d get through this, even if the worst case scenario came to pass. And, thankfully, it didn’t.  

Try this on: most anxiety is a poorly phrased question, that if rephrased, could give you an action to take.  

“What if something happens to my kids?” becomes: “Are there things I am specifically scared about happening to my kids, and what actions do I need to take to prevent those from happening?”

“What if I lose my job” becomes: “What do I need to do to keep my job?” OR “What actions will I need to take if I lose my job?”

“What if I get COVID?” Becomes: “What do I need to do to optimize my health?” OR “What actions do I need to take to make sure my loved ones are cared for if I get critically ill with COVID?”

Anxiety gets quieter when you have a concrete plan and manage your mind. The minute Jenna saw that she had clear steps that she could take to ensure her sons’ safety while she wasn’t home, her anxiety practically disappeared!

Is it foolproof? Nope. As an adult, you get a certificate for “expert-level” worrying!  It will take practice, and likely many setbacks, to consistently reframe your “What-ifs” to actionable items.

But it’s SO worth doing! Need help? Give us a call!