Turning Fear of the Future Into an Asset

By Dr. Gretchen KubackyChronic Illness, PCOS, Thriving, , , ,

There are so many things in life to be afraid of or worried about:  nuclear meltdown, the price of gasoline, whether or not you’ll have a job next week or next year, how on earth you’re going to get pregnant, the development of PCOS-related side effects, the potential demise of Social Security, and whether your children will develop enough skills to make it in this complex world.

And those are just some of the grand themes that elicit fear, anxiety, or even terror.  There’s still the worry about being late to a date or a job interview, whether or not you actually cooked the chicken until it’s done enough to prevent food poisoning, the results of the labs the doctor ran yesterday, and wondering if you spell-checked the document you just e-mailed to 27 people.  All day long, there are things both small and large to worry about, many of which bring up concern about the future.

Sometimes, anxiety is healthy.  It makes you double-check the temperature of the stove, verify that there’s enough gas in the car, ask a friend to read through something, or hop on the internet and do a little research.  This is the part of fear that’s an asset.  You’ll be better prepared, more thorough, and more realistic. And frankly, some of us could stand to do a little more worrying about the future (setting up a savings account, changing your nutritional program, or going back to school, for example).

But anxiety and “what-iffing” can get out of control easily.  If you find that you’re spending hours researching something over which you in fact have little control (come on, admit it!); squirreling away so much money that you’re running into problems taking care of your daily expenses; doubling up on the condoms (which, by the way, causes them to break MORE easily and therefore provides less protection); or having problems getting to sleep at night because your mind is racing with possibilities (all of them negative), then you need some help dialing it back because it’s no longer an asset – it’s a detriment to your well-being.

To make sure that your fear, anxiety and worry function to enhance your life, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I being realistic?
  • Do I REALLY know everything I need to know about this?
  • Do I ALREADY know as much as I need to know?
  • What’s the worst possible outcome if I just let this sit and play itself out?
  • How much control do I have in this situation?
  • Am I deriving some sort of gain from being a bit of a drama queen about this?

 

Be honest with the answers.  No one’s checking them for accuracy.  If, after running through this list of questions, you find that you’re over-reacting or focusing on the wrong things, make efforts to correct your course, change your behavior, or get help.  Worry and fear gone out of control produce endless stress on the already delicate systems in your body, and will cause a domino effect that just leads to more stress, decreased productivity, and even more worries.