Anxiety triggers the stress response. Anxious feelings are rarely about what is actually happening in the present but about the IMAGINED POSSIBILITY of what might happen in the future. People with the best imaginations can create the worst possibilities.
Anxiety and fear are “just” feelings in your body, they are not facts. Your brain creates feelings to help you know how to respond to situations. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and actual circumstance. Fear and anxiety are there to help you cope, but they are made to cope with imminent danger. However, your brain doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing among the past, present or future
When you are flooded with anxious feelings ask yourself, “Am I about to die or suffer severe bodily harm in the next 10 minutes?”
Take some deep breaths. Getting oxygen to your brain will help you feel calmer.
If the answer is no, take some time to look more objectively at the situation. (If the answer is yes however, run for your life.) Separate your feelings from what is actually going on. Examining the worst case, best case and most likely outcome will help you do this:
Surprisingly, looking at what the worst-case senario can help you feel better. This is because we usually don’t ask ourselves specifics of what horrible thing might happen and when we do, sometimes the most horrible outcome is not life threatening.
Next look at the best-case scenario. What could go right? How could the situation turn out well? Doing this helps you imagine good possibilities signaling your brain that everything is ok.
Most Likely Outcome
What ultimately plays out is usually somewhere in-between the best and worst case. Often, what happens is something you haven’t even planned much less imagined. Based on past & present circumstances (not future imagination) what would be a neutral or ok outcome?
In Your Control
Make SPECIFIC action plans
Plan “A” is what you could do if the worst case you are imagining really happens. What is in your control? What is NOT in your control? Who might help you? What resources would you need? Do you know anyone who has been through something similar?
Plan “B” is about what action you can take right away. What is in your power, your control, to do now to impact the outcome? Ask others for ideas or looking at what other’s in similar situations have done that worked is helpful.
Here’s the outline to use your imagination to create less stress.
Write your answers down – it helps empty your brain:
1. What is the worst case?
2. What is the best case?
3. What is most likely to happen?
4. If the worst occurs, what is your plan/how can you cope?
How often have you felt anxious at best and terrified at worst from your own imagined possibilities?
More importantly, how often has what you imagined actually happened?