In the book, Stumbling on Happiness, the author DT Gilbert describes the brain as an “anticipation machine.” As humans, we are constantly playing a game in our minds: the “What If?” game. We wonder, “What will happen if….” If that happens, what could happen next?
When we think about our future, we often think in terms of things going wrong. Even when things seem to be in our favor, we expect something to happen to ruin our futures and our sense of stability. As a result, anxiety about our future rules our lives.
The National Library of Medicine defines anxiety as “a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness.” People who struggle with anxiety often allow fear to rule their lives and avoid certain activities and people in an attempt to control their anxiety. Anxiety is self-perpetuating. The more you fear and avoid something, the more fear you develop, leading to more avoidance.
Many people with anxiety are controlled by their fears. However, you do not have to be controlled by anxiety. We can anticipate and plan for situations, but the reality is that we cannot control our futures. Recognizing this lack of control is often the source of anxiety for many in today's world.
Anxiety often comes from anticipation. We are eager to see what happens next in our lives. We want to know whether or not we will get the job, graduate, get into that specialized program, or get married. We have planned our lives around what we want and anticipate things to go as planned, but we also recognize we lack control. When combined with anticipation, this uncontrollability creates a perfect storm of anxiety.
There are some skills you can use to start reclaiming control over your anxiety. Two common ways you can take back control include:
As you enter into unknown territories with your life decisions, you do not have to live fearing the consequences. You can begin the process of decision-making and cope with anxiety by making a pros and cons list. Identify the struggle you are facing and the choices you have. Examine each option carefully by listing possible outcomes and the benefits and problems associated with each choice. You can then carefully analyze the choice you want and be prepared if something goes wrong.
While this list will not eliminate all problems in your life, it can help you mentally prepare for any troublesome situations if they arise. You do not need to live in fear of decisions but can begin a process of making healthy decisions by examining the pros and cons of each choice and situation.
You may think that any form of a goal can be considered smart when approached properly, and while that is correct, you can also be sure to be more successful in your goals if you take the time to develop them properly. Using the S.M.A.R.T. goal technique, you may find you are achieving your goals more efficiently and with greater confidence, eliminating some of the anxiety you may have been feeling.
S.M.A.R.T goals are:
You must name exactly what you want to accomplish.
S.M.A.R.T goals can be measured to see if you achieved the goals.
Your goal must be achievable. You cannot set an initial goal to finish a Ph.D. program if you have not yet completed high school. While the goal is attainable in the future, you may want to start smaller.
Does your goal relate to your life goals? If you want a Ph.D. in animal sciences but would prefer writing a novel, the two are not fully compatible with one another relative to your life's bigger picture.
When do you want to complete this goal? Understanding your time frame and resources will help you know how to approach the goal.
Having S.M.A.R.T. goals is one way to help you master anxiety about your future. Using this goal method will help you prepare for any unknown variables as the goal is very specific and identifies the who, what, where, when, which, and why of what you want to accomplish.
Anxiety about the future does not have to rule your life. You can begin taking steps today to take control of your life and anxiety. You do not have to live in dread of something bad happening. While you cannot control everything, you can start making goals and taking control of your choices for a better and brighter future.
Anxiety about the future is commonly experienced by many people in today's world. We live in a society where control is everything, yet there is no absolute control over anything. Mastering your anxiety means taking control of your choices and making S.M.A.R.T. goals for your future. While you cannot control everything, you can make plans to live your best life and stop fearing your future. At SokyaHealth, we know the struggle of living in such an uncertain world. We recognize the lack of power and control over some things in our lives but recognize we also have the power to keep moving forward. If you or someone you know is struggling with any form of anxiety, you are not alone, and help is available. We offer virtual health options for therapy, medication management, coaching, and a variety of resources for self-care. Contact SokyaHealth at (877) 840-6956 and learn how we can help.