Stress can at times be an invitation to worry and doubt. This can also mean doubting ourselves and our success in the future.

Anxiety joins stress when our concerns are projected into the future. This means that when we notice that our stress is about something that has not yet occurred, anxiety may be taking its hold on us.

The “What-Ifs”

Planning for the future helps us feel confident, prepared, and assured. Or does it? Notice whether thoughts of “what if this happens?” are building the anxiety within you. Remember to check your physical experience of stress, as discussed in my earlier post. Perhaps there is a limit to the usefulness of planning for future conversations and actions. If the “what ifs” take over your present thoughts, it is likely that anxiety will give us a shorter fuse and foggy vision when we are in fact engaging in the future conversation or behavior that we have thought so much about. This suggests to me that the “what ifs” do not serve me much at all.

The “Shoulds”

Spending time determining the “right” course of action and what you “should” do may start as a useful check-in with values that you hold dear and experiences that you’ve had. However, pay attention to where the ideas of “should” and “right vs. wrong” come from. There may be limitations you are placing on yourself because it may be impossible to be truly sure abut the “right” course of action before we decide to act. Consider instead contemplating: “What feels best for me, based on what I know and feel in the present moment?”

Perhaps there is an identifiable person or persons in your life who occasionally embody the voice of anxiety. When you have the power to identify this, you also give yourself the power to chose whom to spend your time with and what you want to allow yourself to believe about what others say.

If your task is to free yourself from worry-related stress, free yourself from people, places, and thoughts that invite anxiety – at least in the present moment. Create a space and time for affirmations of yourself and your abilities, so that you can move forward with confidence. Appreciate those activities and individuals who encourage your to believe in yourself, and to plan for your future in healthy ways.