You cannot help it. Your boyfriend is out late and does not call, so you think that he cheating on you. Your boss schedules a meeting with you for the next day with no agenda, so you think that your boss is going to let you go. Maybe you even send a funny joke to your friend, but do not receive a reply within the hour, so you think that your friend has been offended and decided to cut ties with you.
Does that ever happen to you? I know it happens to me a lot. And when any of the above, or similar situations, happen to me, I panic and think “oh no, this is when it is going to happen”. Of course, when things settle down, I realize that the worst case never happens. And then I think to myself “what was I so worried about?”
What was I so worried about indeed. Our brains go into overdrive thinking about the worst case scenarios even when those worst case scenarios, probabilistically, are rare. This post isn’t about the science or the emotion behind why our brains are like this, rather, I want to share a few things that I do whenever I feel like the worst is going to happen:
Focus on your breath
Many times, when you fear that the worst will happen, your breathing become rapid and shallow. This results in not getting enough oxygen into your brain and your heart beating faster. Take in a few deep breaths. Focus on breathing. As a plus, if you focus on your breathing, you will find that your mind becomes pre-occupied with breathing and you will start to forget about your other worries.
Keep yourself busy with other activities
If you are busy with trying to think of ideas for your next book or how to increase your product or services for your business, you will likely not be thinking about your fears. Barring that, a good way to keep yourself busy (productively) is to get in a hard work out. Believe me, if you are thinking about something else other than keeping a heavy weight steady, you will hurt yourself.
Talk to a positive friend
Your good friends often have a way of calming you down and giving you a sense of reality to your fears and concerns. When I thought everything was going into the gutter, my friend told me that things were okay and then started to tell me many of the reasons why I was crazy. By bouncing my feelings and sentiments across to a friend, it helped me realize that maybe I was making mountains out of molehills.
Call your parents
A nice two in one: you get to not only get some positive encouragement and unconditional love from your family, but you also get to catch up with them as well. Every time I catch up with my family, I feel energized, positive and refreshed.
Sleep or take a nap
It’s likely that if you are fearing the worst, then you are stressed out. Your breathing isn’t optimal. Maybe you haven’t been eating right. If you are in the middle of your day, take a short nap. I like the ‘hack’ of drinking coffee or tea, and then settling down for a quick nap. The caffeine will kick in about 20 – 30 minutes later and so you won’t take too long of a nap and then you will have not just the caffeine to help you but also be refreshed from sleeping.
Find something to make you laugh
For me, it is stand up comedy. When I feel that the worst may happen, I’ll open up Youtube and look at funny TV or movie clips. Laughing will help get more oxygen into my body and it just makes me feel better.
Take a walk
It’s likely that you are sitting down somewhere, moping around in bed or in front of your phone or computer. Put away the electric devices and go for a walk, even if you are in an office building somewhere. Take the elevator to a different floor, and do a walk around the building. I used to do this to get ideas, get past roadblocks and to take a break from looking at a screen all day.
Tim Ferriss has a great TED talk on a fear exercise that he does. He writes down all of his fears and then next to each one, writes down what he would do if he faced that situation. For example, one of my fears is not having the money to pay my mortgage. In that case, I can sell off investments or take a part time job on the weekends to pay the bills. Or I can eat rice and beans every single meal saving money on food. Or I can take some of the things that I own (clothing, electronics) and sell them on craigslist.
And when you write down your fears and your mitigation plans, you will see that your fears are not as bad as you think they are.
What are you doing this time to help reduce the stress in your life? When you are worried about what is going to happen, how do you deal with it?