At some point in your life you may find yourself getting anxious about some potential unknown. For some, that anxiety can begin to take on a life of its own, creating a series of worst-case scenarios that take over our thoughts.
It typically starts when there is an unknown that we fear. Sometimes it has to do with our jobs, finances, or potential changes in our career, how well we'll do on a test or exam, or just not knowing how something will turn out. Whatever sparks that fear, the thing it all has in common is the unknown, and that fear based on the unknown has a tendency to cause our imaginations to run wild.
When our fear and imagination runs unchecked, it leads to anxiety and panic as we find ourselves focusing on all the things that might go wrong - all the worst case scenarios. Our minds and bodies respond to those imagined scenarios as if they are real, and our stress levels can skyrocket, leading to more anxiety and more fears.
Fearing the unknown is a pretty universal experience. You may have been afraid of the dark or something lurking in the closet when you were younger. Your imagination came up with all sorts of terrible things and, because your mind got stuck in a loop of fear, the anxiety escalated. The fear loop becomes the focus, and all of our thoughts and resources are directed to maintaining it.
Once the light is turned on or the door is opened and we can see what is actually there, our fears subside. Because there is no longer an unknown, the fear loop is broken and we can easily access the resources we already have allowing us to respond to the situation rather than react to the fear.
We can use that same strategy of "turning on the light" to see a situation more clearly if we find ourselves feeling anxious about an unknown outcome.
The Worst Case Scenario Game - Tapping in to Your Inner Awesomeness
If you've ever found yourself in a negative thinking cycle like I described above, imagining all the worst case scenarios you can use a simple strategy to turn your thinking around.
The first step is to breathe. Take a few deep abdominal breaths to calm your nervous system so you can think more clearly.
Notice the things in and around you and make a quick mental note of all the things that are okay right now. Right now, you are breathing. Right now, you are comfortable. Right now you have food, clothes, etc. As you go through this list remember that you are focusing on right now. Right now - you are okay.
Recognizing that in this single moment you are okay stops the panicky spin and let's you regain your footing.
Once you feel a bit calmer, start by choosing one of those imagined worst cases and ask yourself - What steps would I take to manage that if it happened? In your mind, list out each thing you would do, what resources you would call on, and how you would successfully navigate through that potential event. Follow your mental planning all the way through to your best possible outcome.
When you have walked through that event in your imagination, take a few more deep breaths and notice how those imagined scenarios no longer have the same power. You have shifted your inner dialogue from negative speculation and fear of unknowns to a Positive framework of action and capability.
You have resources and abilities that are just below the level of your conscious awareness that have helped you navigate through the most difficult times in your life. You have a perfect track record so far of getting through rough stuff, and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon.
You've got this!🍥
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