Thursday, July 30, 2015

Aim for realism, not blind fear

Anxiety and fear can be good things in our lives. They can alert us to real dangers. Your boss has become increasingly critical of things you're doing—and anxiety tells you this could have a bad outcome. You worry that you are about to lose your job, so you freshen up your resume and put out feelers for something else.

You're about to cross the street; and from the corner of your eye, you see a blur of color—a car running the red light. Fear grips you and you stop in your tracks so you won't be hit.

Sometimes we need fear and anxiety as warning signals, don't we?

However, at times we get carried away in our assessment of the danger ahead. The doctor says she sees something that's not clear during our mammogram, and immediately we jump ahead thinking we have breast cancer—and sometimes even play it out in our minds until we see ourselves on our death bed. This is what's called "awfulizing." We don't wait to learn what's really going on. We immediately take the situation to an extreme in our minds and feel the anxiety of its being true.

Rather than try talk ourselves completely out of anxiety or fear, perhaps a starting place is to try to more accurately assess risky situations. What is the likelihood of an awful outcome, really? And even if the worst happens, will you have options? Assess the situation—and try to let go of predicting the outcome. Once you have some answers, you can make a plan and take charge of the situation. And always remember, there is nothing wrong with asking for support and help from others when bad things do happen.

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