This post has been a long-time coming and by ‘long-time’ I mean about four days. I set a goal to write this several days ago and failed. On the bright side, this very failure gave me more inspiration for this post, so here we go: how to manage stress with two little words.

When you’re trying to manage stress, ask yourself, What if?

Granted, this little trick probably won’t work if you’re dealing with something catastrophic, but for run-of-the-mill stress, I find it works more often than not.

What if.

These are the two little words I look to when I find myself feeling anxious about getting stuck in traffic, my daughter not eating breakfast, nobody walking the dog — or me not publishing a post when I was hoping to.

Let me explain.

If you have kids, you’re no doubt familiar with that million-dollar question: Why? Driven by curiosity, they respond to every answer you provide with another why, and then another and another. It’s incessant and annoying as hell, but there’s a lesson in it for us grown-ups; one we can apply when we’re trying to manage stress.

Don’t just accept stress without question. Be curious.

Ask yourself, what if that recipe doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped?

What if you’re late for your doctor’s appointment?

What if you leave your laptop on an airplane? (And yes, that happened to me, and my brother will attest to the fact I didn’t completely lose it because I had this handy little tool in my back pocket to help me manage stress!)

If we were to keep it simple, we could answer pretty much every one of the questions above with the same answer: life will go on. But life isn’t simple, and to suggest you head straight there without any interim steps isn’t reasonable.

We all want to live but ensuring life goes on is not our only goal. We have sh*t to do, right? And sh*t brings about stress. When you’re trying to manage stress, it helps to break it down.

My suggestion: ask yourself the same damn question over and over again, just like a really, really annoying kid.

Here’s an example.

Q. What if I don’t publish my What if post on Sunday?

A. I won’t achieve my goal of publishing twice a week.

Q. What if I don’t publish a post twice this week?

A. I won’t have anything to share on social media.

Q. What if I don’t share on social media?

A. I’ll see a drop in traffic on my blog.

Q. What if I see a drop in traffic on my blog.

A. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Life goes on.

The next time you find yourself in a situation when you need to manage stress, give this strategy a try. Honestly, it’s been a total game-changer for me; it snaps me out of my funk 95% of the time. As for the remaining 5%, check out these ten stress management tips.

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Before I go, a quick word about guilt (and two bonus words).

My ex-husband used to say that he believes guilt is a useless emotion. I disagree. I believe guilt is a moral compass, and quite frankly, one I wish he’d paid attention to a little more during our marriage, but I digress.

That said, some of us live lives that are wracked with guilt despite being upstanding individuals. I have the tendency to fall into that camp; to feel guilty for every disappointment anyone around me experiences. If you’re like me, I have two more words for you: So what?

Yesterday I picked my step-daughter up from camp and learned that I’d sent her packing without a bathing suit. (Actually, I’d sent her with two bikini tops and no bikini bottom. Oops.) Consequently, she’d been unable to join her fellow campers for their 45-minute swim.

I felt pretty bad until I gave myself a dose of so what? It’s not that I don’t care; of course, I do. I want her to get every possible ounce of joy from her camp experience. However, in the grand scheme of a summer spent road-tripping, visiting England, and riding horses at camp, missing out on one swim session really is no biggie.

All is good. Life is sweet.

What if? So what?

Stick these words in your own back pocket and give them a try next time the opportunity arises. They may not flow naturally at first, but man, if I can use them to help manage stress and overcome guilt, anybody can!

Viv for Today xo

(Originally published August 2017)

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