One of the reasons many of us experience anxiety is because our imagination create worst-case scenarios. When our brain creates a movie that contains scenes featuring our life AND those scenes HAVE NOT happened and MAY NEVER happen, our imagination is playing with us. When our imagination is allowed to run rampant, our stress response can be triggered. The “soul” purpose of the brain is to predict and anticipate any possible stressor, any possible threat to our physical and emotional safety, and prevent that from happening by preparing us, making us alert to the situation. So, when we allow our imagination to run wild, creating fantasies about the future that lead to a potential threat for our physical and emotional safety, we feel it. And it’s mighty unpleasant.
When you find yourself in this trap, use this psychological fitness skill to reduce your overall anxiety and improve your general mental wellness. Using this psychological fitness skill takes planning and practice. You must be determined to plan and practice this technique. Good mental wellness takes effort.
When you find yourself focused on and fixated upon the worst-case scenario, stop yourself.
Say to yourself, “Time to look at other possible outcomes”.
Then, deliberately and intentionally, consider the best-case scenario and outcome of the situational stressor that currently has your attention.
For a lot of us this is difficult. For several reasons. First, the natural reaction of the brain is to prepare for the worst. So, when you are faced with a situation where there are multiple outcomes your brain will automatically fixate and focus on the worst-case scenario in an effort to prepare you for that undesired outcome. This of course creates stress and anxiety and loads of unpleasant and unwanted physical and emotional reactions and even some behavioral choices we’d prefer not to make.
The second reason it’s difficult to think of the best-case scenario is that most of us have had setbacks and disappointments in our life. These setbacks and disappointments become “material” for our brain. Our brain uses this “material” and historical information from our past to influence the “creation of that imagination “worst-case scenario” that plagues our existence.
So, thinking of a best-case scenario, which by the way will change your emotional experience, takes work and effort. It doesn’t come easy. But it can be done. So, when you’re thinking about how your world will fall apart, collapse, that the sky will fall, and so on, stop yourself. Start to imagine yourself in the best-case scenario, the most ideal and wonderful outcome of the situational stressor that you currently face.
After considering the best-case scenario for a while (give it 5 minutes) and resetting your stress response, balance the best- and worst-case scenarios. Think of a most likely scenario.
What is the most likely outcome of the situational stressor that you currently face?
Nearly all of the time the worst- and best-case scenarios don’t play out yet we give the worst-case scenario far more screen time than it deserves.
Focusing on the most likely scenario allows you to predict and anticipate the outcome of the situational stressor you face for the purpose of improving your coping, problem solving, and communication skill sets.