I often find myself getting tangled up thinking about the future. Worrying, analysing, list-writing, and I end up losing out on the present. A nice relaxing bath ends up being a place to mentally jot down a to-do list as long as my arm. I completely tune out of parts of conversations because I'm trying to make sure I don't forget some apparently important task. And I miss so much. Sometimes fear of the future and the all-consuming 'what if...' can stop me dead in my tracks and leave me incapable of doing anything. Hands up who has felt the same way?
The Crystal Ball (coupled with The Ghost
which helps me to not dwell in the past) reminds me that we can't predict the future all the time. Worrying about things which haven't happened (and are very unlikely to happen, if I'm honest) and immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario is something we all do, but there are some steps you can take to move through this.
The future can be scary, it can be uncertain, or it can be exciting. The one thing we do know about it is that it cannot be predicted. So I've been working on spending my time making things happen now, rather than wasting it thinking about what could possibly happen in the future and losing out on the opportunities, experiences and joy going on around me right at this moment.
Like the past, if we're having a hard time we can also find ourselves daydreaming about the future and wondering when things will get better. We drift into the future, not paying attention to the present and not actively working towards the future we really want.
Try the steps below and see how they work for you.
I find that when I worry about what's going to happen, I'm effectively saying 'I can predict the future'. Which sadly, I can't - otherwise I'd be making an absolute fortune. I remember - that as cool as it would be (sometimes) - I can't predict the future, and the only time that worrying is useful is if it motivates me to make changes in my life now so that I can have a better day today and move into the future with a little less fear.
Saying 'I can't predict the future' can seem like giving up, but saying it with confidence reminds me that it's not worth the stress and energy of worry. It really helps - try taking a deep breath in, and out, and saying this out loud as a bold statement. See how that feels?
If I'm worrying about things that logically I cannot know for sure because they haven't happened yet, I make sure I write them down, along with a countering and factual reassurance. Like the tips from The Ghost
, write the responses as if you were comforting a friend.
I know I've mentioned getting caught up in 'what if...' earlier, but sometimes getting into it consciously rather than letting your mind run away with it can be helpful in bringing you back to rational thought.
So grab your first 'what if' thought, and ask yourself honestly what would happen if this took place, no matter how irrational. Keep working through it - either in your mind or in a journal or notebook, taking deep breaths and asking yourself 'and then what?' until you run out of 'what ifs'. This way, you feel like you have a simple plan in place, even if your worry is highly unlikely to happen (which most of the time it is).
If I'm getting stressed out, I try listing the things I'm thankful for, right now. The mind cannot successfully process positive and negative thought at the same time, so start simple and work your way up. Are you wearing a particularly comfy pair of socks right now? Do you have a delicious treat waiting in the fridge for you? Did you get a nice message from a friend today, or can you send one to someone special?
At the time of writing this, I'm sitting on my bed, the window is open and I can hear the rain falling, and the slight strains of my neighbour practicing the recorder (sounds pretty good, neighbour!). I'm relaxed and thankful. Give it a try, either in your head, in your notebook or saying it out loud.
The things I mentioned in The Cat
- working with emotional self-care - can help too. If you're worrying right now, take a few deep breaths and really tune in to what you need, right now. It could be a nap, something to eat or drink, or a hug. If you can, do the thing, slowly and mindfully and paying attention to every bit of it. I find that this tunes out the future and brings you back to the present moment - and hey, you get a treat out of it too. Win-win, right?
While a lot of things are out of our control, I know I feel a lot more at ease if I talk about them. Maybe this could work for you too?
Visit The Spooky Self-Care Society Facebook group
and share the things you're worrying about. Getting them out of your head and into a safe space can help you think more clearly, and work your feelings out so you can enjoy the present.