We have all experienced the fear of the future. Whether it’s a presentation next week at work or fear of losing your job or a relationship, the list can go on and on. When there is a fear of the future, the human mind cannot distinguish between real or perceived danger. As a result, our mind kicks into the protective mode, better known as “the fight or flight response.” It’s an unconscious response but real all the same. In severe cases, this response can cause panic attacks, but for most people, it causes severe to mild anxiety. There is a chemical reaction happening for prolonged periods because the mind can’t identify the danger. For example, let’s use job security or fear of losing your job. You might have a new boss, either someone you know or who is unknown to you. Our mind starts to go to the worst-case scenario, or I call it “the what-ifs.” What if they have done like me? Might I be the first to get fired? Then our minds start coming up with reasons or speculating on why they wouldn’t like you. Maybe you have that presentation at work coming up next week, and again we go to the “what-ifs.” What if I freeze or look stupid, or my lip does that weird thing when I’m nervous. What is happening is, you start compounding the “what-ifs” and the consequence of all of the” what-ifs,” and it has the domino effect compounding multiple fears. The fear of the unknown is when fight or flight kicks in, and we run or fight. If you look at it from an outside perspective, you might think it’s silly or irrational. In this day’s age, we don’t have the same level of danger from predators, which prompted this evolutionary response, but our brains have not evolved as fast as our civilization. Again the brain can’t distinguish between the real and perceived danger. So what can we do to interrupt this fear?
- Identify the feelings and where they reside in your body. When you have a sense of impending doom or feeling anxious, ask yourself why you feel this way. Try to identify the feelings. I.e., Fear, What is the fear? Is it real? Once you recognize it, you can then clarify it. “I’m afraid I’m going to look stupid,” Or I will embarrass myself self, and my boss will hate me, and I will get fired. Our unconscious mind and conscious mind need to work this out. Once you are able to identify what’s going on, you’re able to take actions or steps to interrupt the unconscious pattern that is creating the fear.
- Put it all on paper. Start with “these are all of the things I’m afraid of.” Let yourself go to the worst things that can happen. Putting it all into words allows the brain to give a structured perspective to your unseen worries.
- Categorize rational or irrational. Go down your list of worries or fears and ask yourself is this rational or irrational. You quickly see that your list of concerns gets very short; this should start to give you clarity.
- What’s my game-plan? The good news about this process is you might see some real things you can do to alleviate the fear and anxiety. So you can see you can affect the outcome, whereas before, you were a helpless bystander. Now you can see a plan of action that will make a difference.
- Take charge of the future. The best way to empower yourself is to take control of the process and don’t leave anything to chance. You have identified what’s important so you can now concentrate on your goals and see where potential obstacles might be in your way of achieving the outcome you desire.
- Breathe deep. Now that you understand what is causing the fear of the future, you can relieve the anxiety and stress by connecting to what’s underneath it all. It could be as simple as taking five to ten minutes to yourself where you sit quietly and connect to your breath. Throughout the day, if you notice we take short little breaths, that can lead to anxiety just in itself because it models the fight or flight response.
- Lay down or sit comfortably on the floor if you are in your office; you can find a quiet place to sit.
- Place one hand on the stomach right below the ribs. You can also place a pillow on the abdomen, holding your hand over the pillow. This action creates a relaxation response to the brain.
- Start to breathe deeply through the nose, expanding your stomach into the diaphragm for a count of four. Hold that breath for the count of three and exhale for seven counts or until all of the air out of your lungs and repeat three times.
- Now establish a deep breathing rhythm for five to ten minutes longer if you have the time. Set a timer if you have limited time so you can gently come back to the present.
- If you would like to use this time to clear your mind and increase focus, whenever you have distracting thoughts,go back and concentrate on your breathing. It’s a game you can play with your mind. The result is your mind will wander less.
Visualize your future. Visualization is a potent tool for success. You can combine this with your deep breathing if you wish. There is a reason that top athletes and performers use visualization as standard practice. It allows you to practice the outcome you desire.
You can do this on your own by getting comfortable, closing your eyes, and finding deep rhythmic breath. Now in your mind, go through the future event and practice the outcome that you want. Go through it over and over. See it, hear it make the visualization as rich as possible. The subconscious mind can not tell the difference between this and reality, so it’s taking it on as a real event. If you are having trouble settling in or find yourself too distracted. There are many great guided hypnosis programs either in person or downloadable that are designed to help you with this with reliving fear and anxiety while also working with you at a subconscious level to change your limiting beliefs and replacing them with empowering ones, leaving you focused and relaxed. There is no one right road to eliminating the fear of the future, but there are many empowering roads that lead you to your desired future.