Do you spend a lot of time worrying about the future? Do you find yourself thinking ten steps ahead, strategizing how you’ll handle all the different possible outcomes? If this sounds familiar, it’s safe to say you’re a bit of a worrier. But here’s another question for you. How often have you worried about the future, planned ten different outcomes and responses, only to find that none of those things even happened?
If you’re like me, the answer to that question is probably more times than you can count. When I was finishing my doctoral program and applying for fellowship positions, I was worried about my next step. I had applied for several fellowships, but I worried that I wouldn’t get one. What if no one is interested in me? I began to look at back up options and smaller agencies. I sent out emails to inquire about informal fellowship opportunities. But then I worried more. What if there aren’t any informal options in the Chicago area? What if Matt and I have to do another year apart due to my training? So then I started to think about where else I could train and be within a short, direct flight to Chicago. For two months, I stressed and strategized, imagining every possible solution. I worried about the future like it was an Olympic sport. And then I got offered a fellowship at my top site in Chicago.
A part of me was, of course, relieved, but a part of me was also embarrassed. How much energy had I wasted, worried about the future? How many hours had I spent talking about options instead of being present in special moments?
It’s amazing how much time we spend worried about the future, preparing for things that never, ever happen. In moments when worry is mounting, and the pressure to think ten steps ahead is strong, try saying this:
I don’t have to figure it all out now. I will take one step at a time.
Say this slowly and gently, over and over. When the worry about the future creeps back in, repeat as needed. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Healthy people talk to themselves. A lot. This is the way we challenge our thoughts, which aren’t always accurate. I don’t have to figure it all out now. I will take one step at a time.
If you are someone who is often worried about the future, waiting for your anxiety to die down naturally won’t work. You’re going to have to talk yourself through it, one step at a time, over and over. Your worry will want to run wild, but with intentionality and this coping statement, you can challenge your future-focused anxiety.
Remember, you don’t have to figure it all out now. You can take one step at a time.
PS: If you enjoyed this post, check out this one as well. It’s super helpful for dealing with worry and worst-case scenario thinking.