Thinking of worst-case scenarios is our brain’s survival mechanism. By thinking of the worst outcome, we can prepare for it and, hopefully, prevent it or prepare ourselves emotionally if it occurs. It feels like it puts us back in control in a situation that can feel overwhelming. But what happens when your mind is always jumping to the worst case?
The problem with this survival method is that it can turn into catastrophizing, or creating a worst case scenario when you do not have all the facts and relevant information. These thought patterns will rarely have solutions, and instead, you will increase your anxiety, causing you to always be on edge and focused on horrible outcomes.
Staying Present and Enjoying the Moment
Spending time considering worst case scenarios takes energy. It can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. But setting aside worry over a possible future event is not generally easy. Fear is an intense emotion that can make it difficult to separate the thought from reality, or, as many people will suggest, “let it go.”
For those with anxiety or depression, or those who are done spending energy on catastrophizing, retraining your mind to enjoy the present moment by:
- Use Your Senses – Note what each of your five senses is experiencing. Focusing on physical feelings keeps you from focusing on thoughts and emotions, which naturally weakens their impact.
- Take time to Savor – Now that you are focusing on your senses, take a moment to savor what’s around you. Enjoy the taste of your food, the sound of birds, or the view from your window. Purpose enjoyment makes it hard to worry.
- Do Something You Enjoy – Start a task that takes your mental focus and that you enjoy. This will make time pass while distracting you from concern over the future.
- Identify What You Can Control – There is little you can do about most future situations, but you probably have some control over the present moment. Name the things you can control, and change them if you want.
- Give Thanks – Actively name something you are thankful for when you are imagining a worst case scenario. Practicing gratitude is a positive thought and one you have complete control over, leaving less room for worry.
Whenever you feel yourself imagining a worst-case scenario, these techniques will help you separate yourself from the thought, decreasing the anxiety you feel. But a long-term dedication to living in the moment can also bring you more peace and more enjoyment in your everyday life.