Are you a worst case scenario person? Even if you aren’t, the chances are pretty good that you know at least one person who is. I happen to have a few people in my life who are worst case scenario people.
For the most part, I am the exact opposite. Don’t get me wrong, there are still things that I worry about. However, for years now I have been practicing letting go of the things that are outside of my control and trusting that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
Unfortunately, that aspect of my personality really conflicts with the worst case scenario people in my life. I tend to become very frustrated because, in my head, I can’t comprehend how they could let their imagination run so wild or how they could entertain a thought that is less likely to happen than winning the lottery. It just doesn’t compute for me. Nevertheless, my frustration never helps the situation. In fact, it only makes it worse.
The truth is that God made us all differently and our personal journeys have shaped and influenced how we react in the world. And one of the most important things that I have learned (and am still learning) is that just because one thing doesn’t make sense to me or impact my life a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it’s not still very real to someone else. Anxiety is real. It affects thoughts and decisions every day and can even be debilitating.
I realized how selfish, insensitive, and unproductive my responses were in these, sometimes, very volatile circumstances. So, I decided to come up with some techniques that might help in a worst case scenario moment. Hopefully these will be helpful for those who are worst case scenario people and those who have worst case scenario people in their lives.
- The Focus Session: Instead of worrying about everything all the time, why not take a little bit of time each day to focus on your worries? Here’s the trick though: make sure that it is a healthy amount of time, maybe 15-20 minutes. Not 2 hours+! Also, the goal is to limit your worry to that time alone. If something comes up that makes you feel like you’re going to go into a worst case scenario tailspin, simply write it down on a sticky note or in a notepad and try your best to tell yourself, “I have set aside time for this. I will revisit it at that time.” This will take some practice. It will not happen overnight! But it serves a two-fold purpose. First, if you can start to put the worry aside until the designated time, it will obviously make more of your day worry-free. Second, when you add some structure to how you approach your worry, you are essentially attacking it instead of letting it run rampant. You might find that you are starting to take control of your anxiety long before you get to the worst case scenario.
- Visualization: This is psychology exercise that has been around for a long time. It can be used alone or as a secondary technique that can be combined with an exercise like the “Focus Session.” Long-story-short, it’s a common practice used in athletics, but can be used in a variety of situations including overcoming anxiety. All you have to do is simply create a visual representation of your fear or anxiety and imagine a way that allows you to overcome it or let it go. You might imagine yourself holding a handful of balloons. Each color balloon represents a different fear. Now imagine yourself pulling out each color one by one and letting the balloon go. Your anxieties, like the balloons, get smaller and smaller as they float away and eventually disappear. Or, you could use a physical representation such as writing down your worries on a sheet of paper and then tearing it up and throwing it away or even burning it. Either way, take your time and explore some different scenarios that work best for you.
- The Puzzle or the Scientific Method: Call it what you like, but both of these techniques involve taking a strategic approach to your anxiety or worst case scenario. When you look at your anxiety as a puzzle or a hypothesis that must be proven, you have begun to move from an emotional response to a perspective of logic or reason. If it’s a puzzle, continue to put the pieces together that will allow you to see the full picture and why your anxiety is most likely irrational and completely unlikely to happen. It you use the Scientific Method, see what evidence you can dig up that might support your worst case scenario coming true. Use the all-knowing Google and see if you can find an actual probability of your scenario coming true. Then compare and contrast that probability with others. Again, you will begin to see how improbably and irrational your fear may be.
- Mentor/Coach: When you were younger, did you ever try to approach someone for advice “for a friend?” I know I did. Well, in this exercise you actually get to pretend that it is a friend and not you who is experiencing the issue with anxiety. Think about how you approach your friend from a coaching or mentorship position. What questions would you ask to get them to go into depth about the fear and where it come from? What questions would you ask to help them take a more logical approach to their issue? What exercises would you recommend to help them overcome their fear? How would you help them reframe their focus? This is such a cool exercise because sometimes we have trouble getting out of our own way. There are times when we find it easier to help someone else instead of helping ourselves.
- The Old Switcheroo: This one can actually be fun. Try swapping out your worst case scenario thoughts with best case scenario thoughts. First, it forces you into understanding that there are other possibilities than just that one on which your anxiety wants you to concentrate. Second, I promise you that by simply taking your thoughts in the opposite direction of anxiety it will lighten your mood and begin to alleviate your anxiety. Don’t believe me? Try it!
- The “What then” Approach: I think that, very often, when someone is going into a worst case scenario moment they get trapped in the possible outcome. However, what is so ironic is that if they just took the time to go beyond the scenario and see the “process” through, they might actually work their way back around from anxiety to peace. So, when a worst case scenario hits, don’t run from it. Define it completely and then ask yourself, “What then?” After that response, ask “What then” again. Soon you will begin to see how you would respond even if this very unlikely thing happened to occur. You would tell yourself about the people in your life you have to turn to which would make you realize that you’re not alone. You start to think proactively about how to overcome any issues. *Snap* And then just like that, you have completely changed your mindset.
There are many other techniques you can to help with worst case scenario moments. You can journal, take a walk, do breathing exercises, etc. The important thing is to fully explore different options to see what works best for you. One thing alone might make the difference, but it might be a combination of a few things. Try and keep a journal of anxious and worst case scenario moments and write down how you chose to attack it and give a grade from 1-10 on how well you think it worked. The most important thing I can tell you, though, is not to avoid it. Suppressing your anxiety will only have further negative effects. You will probably carry that fear over into other areas of your life. It will affect your overall health: how you feel physically and emotionally, your sleeping patterns, and your diet. The best thing you can do is face your fear!
What is the most common trigger for your worst case scenario moments? Do you experience different worst case scenarios or do they all lead to a central fear? What are some ways you try to re-center when in the moment?