I'm pretty sure that every now and then, all of us experience this inexplicable restlessness, breathlessness and worry.

Maybe, we find ourselves hyperventilating and going crazy with the thought 'What will happen if...', 'Will it happen...', 'What if it doesn't happen..?' and before we know it, we are consumed by this feeling called 'anxiety'.

So what is this 'anxiety'?

Simply put, it's a state of heightened worry, nervousness or apprehension about a situation. It comes up especially when, the outcome is uncertain.

We humans, aren't so well programmed to deal with uncertainty. If given a choice,subconsciously, we would like to know the how and why of everything! It's essential for our sense of security and stability.

When we know what's going to happen, we can comfortably sit back and enjoy the ride. However, when we don't know, it creates a havoc in our internal life because not knowing, comes as a package of many possibilities. And that's what scares us. What if we get stuck with an outcome we don't want? What if we don't like what we'll get? What if we don't know what to do when faced with an outcome?

So many 'what ifs' and no answer...and that's enough to send the mind into a tizzy!

But the fact of the matter is, we will never know everything about anything! It's this uncertainty which pushes us to take things a bit seriously; take ourselves seriously and learn how to deal with uncertainty. However, problems arise when we take ourselves a little too seriously and lose the plot of the situation!

The only opposite of 'not knowing' is 'knowing'. But we end up focusing all our energies on the probable outcomes which leaves us nowhere.

On the contrary, what would be of great help would be to know how to deal with this looming uncertainty. That can only happen by preparing ourselves to deal with all possible outcomes.

Ironically, the question 'what if' is sort of rhetorical. It forces us to think of ways to deal with the situations we are obviously not prepared for! But instead of breaking the situation down into its 'known elements', we only focus on the question.

By repeating this 'what if' a dozen times in our minds, it only creates more and more anxiety!

And then we get even more anxious about the fact that we are anxious!

Therefore, here are some things we can do to keep anxiety at bay-

  • BREAK DOWN THE SITUATION: into what you know and what you don't know about a particular situation.
  • FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION: about those aspects of the situation that you are currently unaware of.
  • IDENTIFY VARIABLES: every situation has some constant and some variable factors. Constant factors stay the same throughout. It's the variable that creates anxiety.Variable factors are those which are not under our control. e.g. you can control the time and effort you put into your studies or work. But you can't control the marks that you get or the feedback you get from your boss. Those are the variables.
  • FOCUS: on what you can do and do it well. You may end up with a crappy examiner who decides not to read your paper carefully. But the fact that you gave it your 100%, would play a pivotal role in helping you keep up your self-esteem.
  • PREPARE, NOT CONTROL: Why must everything be about control? Shift your focus to preparing for various outcomes rather than obsessing over the possibilities. e.g. instead of torturing yourself with 'What if I don't get this job..', shift your focus to 'If /I don't get this job,I will...." and then prepare for such a possibility. Keep back ups ready.

The feeling of anxiety usually comes up when we are not prepared to deal with an outcome we don't like and don't want. More often than not, we know about the possible outcomes that exist. But instead of bracing ourselves for them, we cover it up with a thick layer of 'What if.'

Until and unless we give ourselves an answer to that question; anxiety will be our best friend.

Think. Prepare. Relax. Stay healthy!