We all experience fear and anxiety about the future at some point or another. It can manifest in many different ways, from small worries to full-blown panic attacks. While it’s normal to experience these feelings from time to time, it’s important to recognize them and take steps to manage them for a healthier and happier life. Having strategies for dealing with these worries about the future can help you better cope with and manage your stress, allowing you to live a more balanced life free from unnecessary anxiety about the future.
Worrying about the future is something everyone does, but if it begins to impact your daily life, then it may be transitioning into what is known as anticipatory anxiety. It’s imagining the worst-case scenario in many upcoming situations, “what if?” It can be triggered by anything from something viewed on the news to a voicemail from an employer saying they need to speak with them. It’s an overwhelming feeling of dread regarding a possible situation we have no control over. While anticipatory anxiety can range from a sense of nervousness to debilitating fear, some symptoms may include:
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble managing emotions and mood
- emotional numbness
- loss of interest in your usual hobbies
- jumpiness or restlessness
- muscle tension and pain
- nausea and appetite loss
- sleep problems
With everything going on in the world today, it’s no wonder that more people than ever are worried about the future. We’ve all been through a lot these past few years, and it’s easy to feel consumed by uncertainty. According to recent stats published by the American Psychological Association, “More than three-quarters of adults (76%) said that the future of our nation is a significant source of stress in their lives.” That means that every two out of three people are walking around worried and stressed about the future. While we can’t control everything and everyone, we can attempt to find some control within the chaos.
How to Cope With Stressing over the Future
Whether you’re stressing about the next hour or the next year, handling this out-of-control feeling will take time. There are some ways to help pull yourself out of these spiraling thoughts and into a more positive light.
1. Deep Breathing
While it may seem basic and something people who are feeling anxious don’t want to hear, deep breathing can actually help reduce anxiety. It can help slow down a rapidly beating heart and bring about a state of calm. Because deep breathing increases oxygen to the brain, it will then stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to help create a feeling of peace. It can help quiet your mind and bring awareness to your body.
There are many different breathing techniques. For instance, 4-7-8 breathing. This is where you inhale through the nose for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and exhale through the mouth for eight seconds. No matter which method you choose, the important thing is finding the one that works best for you. Let’s walk through a simple breathing technique together.
- Get comfortable – First, you need to get comfortable. You can be seated in a chair with your head and neck supported or lying on your back with a pillow either in a bed or on the floor.
- Breathe through your nose – Next, breathe in through your nose and let your belly fill with air. Now breathe out through your nose.
- One hand on your belly, one hand on your chest – Place one hand on your belly and place the other hand on your chest. As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that’s on your chest.
- Breathe – Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath.
2. Practice Self-Care
Your mind is one hundred percent connected to your body, and if you’re not taking care of it, your mind won’t function the way you want it to. It’s easy to see the vicious cycle that anxiety can have on the body. Not eating right or getting enough sleep can make your anxiety worse. However, it’s because of your anxiety that you’re not eating or sleeping right in the first place. It feels like a no-win situation; however, there are a few steps you can take to try and break the cycle.
- Reduce caffeine
- Participate in some physical activity
- Avoid distractions while trying to fall asleep such as TV or a computer
- Avoid alcohol and large meals right before bed
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends.
3. Keep a Diary
It’s easy to look back at things and think, ‘that wasn’t so bad,’ yet prior to those things happening, we didn’t feel so warm and fuzzy about them. This is known as hindsight bias. It was the uncertainty of those events that had us struggling to find some inner sense of peace. But now that we know the outcome, we’re much better. What is something you spent hours or even days worrying about? When that event actually happened, was it what you thought it would be? Did worrying about it do anything to change the outcome?
Keeping a diary can be an invaluable way of aiding in stress management and understanding our own strength. It gives us the opportunity to look back and recognize that we made it through all our worries and difficulties, as well as reminds us of how strong we really are. By revisiting our own thoughts, feelings, and experiences regularly, we can gain valuable insight into ourselves, which can help us better cope with whatever comes our way.
4. Be Nice To Yourself
Why is it that we would never talk to anyone else the way we talk to ourselves? We all have an inner dialogue or self-talk that’s constantly running in our minds. Unfortunately, this internal monologue can sometimes be negative, critical, and worrisome. It’s important to recognize this tendency, and instead of being hard on ourselves, we need to learn to be kinder and gentler with how we speak to ourselves. By channeling these positive thoughts, we can create a sense of calm and well-being that will help us stay grounded and better handle our worries about the future.
5. Focus on what you can control
We realize this will take some effort because the fact is, as humans, we have this desire to control everything around us. While some control is okay, the reality is that life is full of uncertainty and we will most certainly drive ourselves crazy trying to rein it all in. Control is our way of coping with fear and trying to find order in the chaos. So what are things you can control?
- How you interact with loved ones.
- How you spend your free time.
- What steps you take to care for your mental health.
- How much time you spend watching the news or scrolling social media.
- How you react to something negative.
- How you take care of your body.
- Your mindset.
- How you structure your day.
- Knowing when to ask for help.
If focusing on the big things seems like too much, then focus on the small things you can control. For example, if you know you have a hectic day coming up, prepare what you can the night before, like setting up your coffee maker using the timer, laying out your clothes the night before, and preparing what you’re going to do for lunch. Taking charge of what we can do enables us to be more prepared for any unexpected events that might come our way.
Ultimately, learning to cope with stress and anxiety about the future is an ongoing journey. Reaching out for support if needed, finding strategies that work for you, and redirecting your thoughts with positive self-talk can all be effective in managing stress and reducing fear about the future. By understanding our anxieties and learning how to better cope with them, we can start living a more balanced life and reduce unnecessary worry about what could happen next.
If you want to learn more about what we treat, and how we treat, or to schedule an appointment, please visit The Ross Center online at https://www.rosscenter.com/.