How to control stress: this insanely easy tip works 95% of the time

This post has been a long-time coming and by ‘long-time’ I mean about four days. I know that might not seem like much to you but I had set a goal to write this several days ago and failed. With failure comes stress. But guess what? My failure to achieve this particular goal has actually given me more fodder for this post (thank you, Universe) so here we go — how to control stress with two little words.

When you’re dealing with stress, simply ask yourself What if?

That’s it. Those 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 I think there’s a lesson in it for us grown-ups, one we can apply to effective stress management.

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 used this simple stress management technique!

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 shit to do, right? And shit brings about stress. To manage stress, it helps to break it down. My suggestion: ask yourself the same damn question over and over again, just like a 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 feel the need to tame your 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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Learn how to control your stress and set yourself free!

Before I go, a quick word about guilt.

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?

Give them a try next time the opportunity arises and let me know how you get on. It may not come naturally at first, but man, if I can learn how to control stress and guilt, anybody can!


By | 2017-09-14T14:15:36+00:00 August 31st, 2017|17 Comments


  1. Mich September 2, 2017 at 9:16 am - Reply

    When I am so stress and I don’t have any idea how to combat it , I simply find a ME time.. Being alone for a moment to pause to think.

    • THE WORDY MOM September 2, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

      A great strategy – and one I’m doing right now!

  2. Mary September 2, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply

    This is great and I practice the What if scenario and try to focus on the whole 10 years from now-what will matter? What will be important. It’s not always easy but it does help!

    • THE WORDY MOM September 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      That’s a great perspective Mary. So important to remember that many of the moments causing us stress are mere blips in the bigger scheme of things.

  3. Cathy September 2, 2017 at 10:58 am - Reply

    I’m a big believer in deep breathing. When my stress level amps up, as soon as I recognize what’s happening, I stop and start taking deep breaths. When I get myself back to a place of rational thought I ask, “Now what?” It puts me back in a place of action rather than worry which is just circular and pointless.
    Great post 🙂

    • THE WORDY MOM September 3, 2017 at 5:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the reminder, Cathy. I attend yoga regularly and moving my body is just part of the equation. The breathing is the biggest takeaway from every class. It’s impossible to leave a class stressed because of it. I should remember to breathe more often – in between classes.

  4. Sophie September 2, 2017 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    What a simple but effective strategy. I need to ask myself this as often as my son asks me “why?”.

    • THE WORDY MOM September 3, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      LOL. Yep, one of many strategies out there but for sure a simple one.

  5. Maia Caron September 3, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I get so caught up in the stress of the moment and let it escalate. Thanks for the tip on asking what if. Helpful!

    • THE WORDY MOM September 3, 2017 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      I hope it works for you, Maia. Sometimes it’s so hard when we’re in that moment to actually implement the strategies that can help us. I know this first-hand. I was a train wreck yesterday, but today’s a new day (or so my husband tells me)!

  6. Jiya B September 4, 2017 at 6:18 am - Reply

    Loved reading this post. In fact the title comes as a reminder to myself. No stress. Thanks for sharing.

    • THE WORDY MOM September 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Jiya!

  7. Jenni Petrey September 5, 2017 at 8:02 am - Reply

    This is great. I’m slowly learning to not get too stressed. It’s taking time but am getting the hang of it.

    • THE WORDY MOM September 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

      Takes a lifetime, Jenni. Two days after writing this post I totally lost my s**t. When I’m sleep deprived, all bets are off. But I keep on trying.

  8. Ana September 5, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    When my stress is on the rise I breathe and count. Part of my problem is all the “what ifs” 😉

    • THE WORDY MOM September 5, 2017 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      LOL. Ana, I can totally understand how that question could prompt a total spin in the wrong direction in another context! I’m glad you have a strategy that works for you.

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