If/then

WELCOME

Welcome to our interactive if/then page. Here, you can use different tools and resources to help you to make a plan for how to deal with stressful situations that may arise in the future. By practising how to plan effectively, you can learn new coping strategies, work towards achieving your goals and improve your overall resilience.

As the content of this page deals with thinking about scenarios that cause stress and anxiety, if you feel you need a bit of extra support then we recommend filling in this page with a family member/friend/someone you trust.

How to use this page...

We'd strongly recommend having another way of recording your input on this page as what you enter can't be saved. Perhaps you could use:

  • The notes section on your phone

  • Pen and paper

  • A separate Word document.

Before we get started, take some time to think about a situation that might make you feel stressed or uncertain.  It's a good idea to have a brainstorm and to begin jotting down some thoughts as they come to mind.

It might be helpful to think of a situation that is related to a personal goal you might have, such as applying for a job.

 

At this stage, write down as much detail as you can think of just now: you can always come back and add to it later.

Use this space to note down some situations that make you feel anxious or stressed...

PERCEIVED BARRIERS

When we set a personal goal and are motivated to achieve that goal, we want to be able to plan for how to deal with any perceived barriers that come in our way of achieving it.

Some examples of perceived barriers to achieving a goal might include...

I feel stressed out

This makes me feel anxious

I can feel how nervous I am

Everything is new, I've never done this before

What will I do if something unexpected happens?

Can you think of any more?

Photo credit: Eugene Kukulka on Reshot

STRESSFUL SCENARIO

These perceived barriers can make a situation quite stressful for us. Here's an example of one kind of potentially stressful scenario, to give you a feel for the sort of situation we might want to start planning for.

 

As part of a bigger goal of getting a job, you might be asked to do an interview. You've maybe not done this before, or you're not sure what you'll be asked, so you will perhaps be feeling quite nervous, which is completely normal!

So your stressful scenario might be:

What if they ask me a question that I don't know the answer to?

Take a minute to think about this scenario. How does it make you feel? What thoughts are you having in that moment? What does your behaviour look like in this scenario?

IF/THEN PLANNING

The great news is that although there may be perceived barriers in the way of achieving our goals, there are things we can do to deal with these stressful situations in a positive and resilient way.

The ability to plan is a mental skill and it's an important part of building your psychological resilience. It can teach you to respond positively to a situation that you find challenging. 

We can start to practise what we call if/then planning by making a statement that looks like this:

 

'IF this happens, THEN I can do this to cope with it'.

 

 

Here are a few examples. Hover over each box to see an appropriate THEN response to each IF scenario.

Job Interview
IF

the interviewer asks me a question that I'm not sure how to answer...

Exam
IF

I feel anxious while sitting my exam...

Thinking Man on Couch
IF

my thoughts start running away from me...

Smart Phone
IF

I'm feeling a bit low and want to talk about it...

Use this space to think about your own if/then scenario and how you can plan coping techniques to deal with a stressful situation. 

 

Begin by writing down a situation that you would normally find quite challenging. Make a couple of notes about how you would typically deal with that situation. What do your thoughts, behaviours and feelings look like when you respond to the situation in this way?


 

Now let's start to make a plan for how you might cope more effectively in that same situation. Use the space below to write down one or two alternative ways of thinking, behaving and feeling in that scenario. A helpful way to think of an effective 'then' response would be to ask yourself what advice you would give to a friend in that situation.

 

Do you notice a difference between how you responded to the situation before, versus now that you have an if/then plan in place? What are you doing differently to help you to feel less stressed out?​


When coming up with an effective plan, it's a good idea to think of what personal strengths you have. For example, if  you are a good communicator, then perhaps you might like to use this strength and choose to call a friend or family member as a way of coping with the stressful scenario.

Don't forget to make your own copy of your if/then scenario, as your entries can't be saved on the website.

BENEFITS OF IF/THEN PLANNING

It can take a bit of time to learn a new coping technique, but with practice you can develop a plan for lots of different situations to help you to deal with them more effectively. Let's take a look at some of the many benefits of if/then planning. Can you think of any more?

 

 

Life is mostly unexpected and we can't predict the future. However, we can make plans to help us to deal with whatever happens in a strong, positive and resilient way. Planning can be used to help you to cope, even with unexpected events or situations that catch you off guard.

See what six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan had to say about dealing with perceived barriers.

Olympic, European & Commonwealth gold medalist Denise Lewis uses planning to deal with high intensity situations.


With effective planning, you can start to feel calmer, more positive, more focussed and perhaps less distracted by unwanted thoughts or feelings.

 

 

If/then planning is a mental skill which you can practise and develop over time. It can help to improve your mental well-being, ability to cope and your overall resilience, especially through challenging situations.

Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu shares how planning has helped her to reach her goals.

As with any new mental skill, we can make the most of opportunities to practise. Have a think about how you could bring some if/then planning to your everyday life.

 

For example, it can be helpful to come up with a way of reminding ourselves of our if/then plan throughout the day, so that we get a chance to practise. You could leave a sticky note above your door handle so that each time you leave the room you are reminded of your if/then plan.

Use the space below to write down a way to remind yourself of your if/then plan throughout the day.

In the space below, you have the opportunity to bring together everything that we've looked at on this interactive page so far. There is space for you to write down a personal goal that you are working towards. You can then use the slider to indicate how important and meaningful this goal is to you. The sliders range from 1 (not very strong) to 10 (very strong).

 

In the text boxes below, you can identify a perceived barrier in the way of your goal and use the slider to indicate how stressful that barrier is to you.

 

Finally, you get the chance to use the text box to come up with a plan for how you could effectively cope with the perceived barrier, using your if/then planning. The slider is there to help you to think about how you might feel when you use this effective coping technique.

 

Taking the previous example of a job interview, your goal might be to do well in the interview. However a difficult interview question could be perceived as a barrier, so you might like to plan to cope with this by using a grounding technique, and this could help to reduce your stress levels.

 

To find out more about grounding techniques to help you to feel calmer and more in control, you can download our free infographics.

How

IMPORTANt

this is

1

10

My

STRESS

level

1

10

My

STRESS

level

1

10

LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS

We hope you found this interactive page helpful for learning how to begin some effective if/then planning to cope with stressful situations and overcome perceived barriers in the way of your goals. You can keep using this page to reflect on your planning and we also recommend keeping a personal copy, as the work on here can't be saved. 

Just as a reminder, we also have an If/Then tool included in our free Mental Skills Training Toolkit. You can also check out our free grounding techniques and keep a copy on your phone if you'd like.

Accessible Toolkit Image.png

Finally, we'd love to know what you thought of this page. How helpful did you find it? What else could we have included to make it more informative? Were there any technical glitches? Please leave your feedback in the box below and press send :)

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School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

University of Birmingham

Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

UK

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