Overcoming anxious predictions
Overcoming anxious predictions
We all do it – we imagine something unfolding badly and get ourselves into a state before it has even happened. When it does happen, it’s rarely ever as bad as we expect it to be. So why do we do this? Why do we indulge in “what if” thinking and mentally torture ourselves unnecessarily?
We can all overestimate the probability of something bad happening or underestimate our ability to cope with it. We also tend to ignore other factors about a situation that could possibly change the way we think about something. We make faulty assumptions about others, on a daily basis. This is a good example of how thoughts affect us – worried thoughts lead to unsettles emotions and we then act upon this feeling. Change the thought and you change the emotion and the ensuing behaviour.
Challenging anxious predictions
Thoughts and predictions are often opinions we have picked up or learned, rather than factual. They can be questioned and shouldn’t be something we blindly accept especially if they are causing us distress.
To challenge anxious predictions, you need to identify, analyse and evaluate how accurate or likely they are to happen in reality.Also look at anything positive that you may be ignoring. You become a detective or your mind in a way – trying to get the evidence for your thinking/the facts. This helps to put anxious predictions in perspective.
It’s often a good idea to write down your anxious predictions and challenge them on paper.
Use these headings:
- My anxious predictions
- How I make these anxious predictions comes true (do you do anything to promote this actually happening?) for example: if you predict that no one will talk to you at a party, do you arrive at the party and sit in a corner without trying to interact with others?
- Alternatives that can disprove my anxious predictions (eg. If I make an effort I can change the outcome. I can find someone to talk to).
Writing your anxious predictions down won;t mean they will magically disappear but you will get used to identify your thought patterns and the triggers for your anxious predictions. It will also make anxious predictions more manageable so you can try new things and be pleasantly surprised. Instead of letting your negative anxious predictions rule your life and restrict your life.
Experimenting with anxious predictions
When we expect negative things of ourselves and our abilities, we will act accordingly and either avoid the situation totally, try the situation but escape when things become overwhelming or be overly cautious and engage in behaviours that we think will keep us safe (known as safety behaviours) to help us get through.
Examples of safety behaviours:
Over preparing, taking medication, checking over and over again, leave early etc
Conduct an experiement to test the truth of your anxious prediction. The point in experimenting is to stop avoiding, escaping and using safety behaviours and see if what we expect actually happens. This can be daunting, but it is a brilliant way to reduce anxious predictions over time.
The aim of challenging and experimenting with your anxious predictions is to develop a more realistic expectation. By making more realistic predictions in day to day life, you will think and act differently. Doing this will lead to new information coming to light enabling you to adapt your ideas and enjoy a life with less anxiety.