Prepping for Hurricane Sandy: Handling "What If" ThoughtsOkay. I’ve admitted that I’m nervous. When I think of the possibility of losing power for a few hours, I get butterflies (bad ones) in my belly. Especially if the power goes out at night.

The thought of losing power for a day? Very stressful. Will my food be okay? How will I cook without my electric oven and stove?

Losing power for two days? Extremely stressful. Will all of my food go bad? Will I be hungry? Will my apartment get too cold? I can surely bundle up and stay warm, but my pet parrot is, uh, a tropical bird. He likes warmth. I can’t exactly cuddle with him under the down comforter.

Three days? Ugh. Let’s not even talk about it.

This is a great time to discuss the concept of “what if” thinking. All too often, we get caught up in thoughts about future events or activities that haven’t occurred yet — and may not even occur. My therapist’s motto? Focus on the “what is”, not the “what if”.

But…but what about when you’re in the direct path of a hurricane!?

Surely there are exceptions to every rule, right? I think it was Uncle Jesse who first introduced me to this concept in an episode of Full House. He said that the “no swimming until an hour after eating rule” is basically bunk if you only eat a peanut or a cracker.

Likewise, I’m calling a hurricane an exception to the “what if” rule — but I’m still trying very hard to keep my “what if” statements from branching out into complete impracticality.

Here’s what I mean:

A good “what if” statement: What if the power goes out? I should have candles and flashlights ready.

A bad “what if” statement: What if the power goes out and all my food goes bad and then I’ll have to spend $200 that I don’t have to replace everything in the fridge and then I’ll be in debt again and I won’t have enough money to pay my car loan next month and then I’ll get a ding on my credit score which will lessen the likelihood of getting a good mortgage rate next year when I buy a house?!

Keep your “what if” statements simple. Tempting as it may be, don’t follow their improper and twisted logic. They’re fiction. Stop yourself after you hit the initial cause-and-effect statement. Don’t turn a power outage into a 30-year mortgage nightmare.

Remember to stay in the present. Weather reports on the television news tend to show the worst of the worst. By definition, that’s what “news” is. The best of the best, the worst of the worst, and the newest of the new. Just because it’s on television doesn’t mean you’re going to see it in your own backyard.

When you hold the bad type of “what if” statements at bay, it frees up more time to do what really matters: to prepare and react to the events that are actually unfolding — not in your head, but in real life.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Flооd



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    Last reviewed: 29 Oct 2012

APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2012). Prepping for Hurricane Sandy: Handling “What If” Thoughts. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 2, 2015, from


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