If you struggle with anxiety, you most likely worry about the future. Specifically, you worry about things that could go wrong soon. While most of the scenarios I have heard people worry about are possible, they are often unlikely. Rather than worry about things that are unlikely to happen, learn how to redirect your thoughts to move past anxiety.
For example, someone who worries about getting into a car accident will make a valid argument to justify his worry. However, when you consider his past history of safe driving, his worry becomes irrational. Even though he practices safe driving, his mind has still wondered into worrying about the potential of danger. This sometimes happens after one accident or witnessing an accident.
Why Does the Brain Focus on Worst Case Scenarios?
The goal of this post is to introduce the reader to a simple but effective technique for practicing to redirect your thoughts to move past anxiety. However, before we proceed, we must first discuss the brain’s tendency to focus on worst-case scenarios.
The brain’s tendency to focus on worst-case scenarios is a survival mechanism. Even in today’s modern times, those who don’t consider the risk associated with their behaviors, don’t live long. People like this tend to be impulsive and chaotic. When you interact with them, they are often dealing with one consequence or the other from poor decision making. When it becomes a clinical issue is when it becomes apparent that they are not concerned with consequences. Most of these people seldom make it into adulthood, as they become institutionalized in prisons, mental health facilities or become deceased.
When Does Focus on Worst Case Scenarios Become an Issue?
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who struggle with anxiety. They struggle with anxiety because they are extremely risk adverse. They are so averse to risk that if the idea of things going wrong comes into their mind, they become mentally stuck on overthinking the worst-case scenarios.
Often, these people engage in thinking errors, when they selectively ignore evidence in their lives which contradicts their worries. The reason for ignoring objective evidence, is to maintain a false sense of control over their lives. Out of fear, they hold unto the belief that they are unable to deal with adversity, that they seek to control all aspects of their lives to ensure that things go smoothly.
How to Redirect Your Thoughts
Assuming you can relate to this post, then the following exercise is for you. You are simply going to write down an ideal situation you desire to happen. This situation must be directly opposite to what you are worried about happening. Next you will focus on experiencing the feelings you would feel if this situation happened. This exercise is most ideal when you are either about to turn in for the night, or when you have just woken up in the morning. The reason for this is because these are the states of consciousness where your mind is most receptive to influence.
Further, it is recommended that you perform this exercise every day for thirty consecutive days. For scenarios that require action on your part for the scenario to happen, you will write down a brief action plan after you have gone through the process of experiencing your feelings. For example, someone who is fearful of driving will write down everyday or night, about how he is going to drive safely during that day or the next and arrive safely to his destination. After he has processed his feelings associated with safe driving, he will then specify actions or rules he must abide by when driving on the road, i.e, obeying all traffic laws, using his seat belt and not engaging with his cell phone while driving.
This exercise, while effective, is not for everyone. For people who need more help, the services of a clinical professional is highly recommended.
Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and expert in anxiety and related disorders. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
Ugo also provides Online therapy for those who cannot travel to his office.