Learn How To Stop Worrying With the What-If Exercise
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What is This Tool And How Can I Stop Anxious Thoughts With It?
Learn how to stop worrying with this “What-If” exercise!
Sometimes called “playing the script until the end,” this exercise is a handy way to take all your fears and anxieties and put them in a more realistic perspective.
For counselors looking to give homework to your clients, have your clients fill this table out on their own and send you the results.
It will give a useful, interactive activity to your client, and you can review their responses to understand whether they are engaging in rational thinking about their anxieties.
Why Does This Exercise Work To Stop Anxious Thoughts?
Fears and anxieties make it easy for us to engage in “distorted thoughts” that skew our views of reality. Particularly, fears of the future make us overgeneralize, thinking that we know exactly what is going to happen based on a fear, and that the result will be the worst thing in the world.
Doing this exercise will allow you to take inventory of a) whether or not your fears are rooted in reality and b) the skills and coping tools you will have to deal with a scenario even if the worst comes true.
So How Do I Stop Worrying With the What-If?
In the table below, there are four columns:
1. “What am I worrying about?”: For example: “I am worried about getting laid off.”
2. “How likely is this to happen?”: Rate how likely it is to happen from “Very Unlikely” to “Very Likely.”
3. “What is the worst-case scenario?”: If the situation you’re worrying about comes true, what is the worst thing that can happen? Be honest and realistic with yourself, but also don’t sugarcoat things if it is truly serious. For example: “If I get laid off, I will not have enough money to pay rent at the end of the month and will be evicted.”
4. “How will I cope if this comes true?”: Your worst-case scenario has come true, now what? Here is your place to list out all the ways you think you’ll be able to work through the situation. For example: “If I’m laid off and evicted, I can still stay with family for until I can get another position.”
5. Once you have finished filling out the first row, check it over and click “Add your row!” to add it to the table. You will then be able to add a new scenario the same way as the first one. Repeat this process as many or as few times as you would like.
When you have finished the table, tap the “Click to download” button to get a copy of your table! Whenever your fears come back up, reference this to remind yourself that there is always a way to cope.
If you are working with a counselor who asked you to complete this, be sure to send the downloaded copy to her/him once you are done