5 Ways to Enjoy the Present When Worried for the Future

3 min read

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Often, our minds paint grim images of the future. As a therapist, I see this every day. The everlasting ‘what ifs.’ ‘What if I lose my job?’ ‘What if my wife leaves?’ ‘What if I get cancer?’

These ‘what ifs’ can keep us trapped in a future that does not now and may never, exist. This robs us of the joy, connection, and momentum we could be experiencing in the present. In relationships and creative endeavors, these fears can sabotage us creating the very realities we hope to avoid.

Still, trying not to worry is rarely effective. We don’t get to choose what thoughts come into our minds. Trying to banish certain thoughts from our minds tends to magnify this as illustrated by the Acceptance Commitment Therapy metaphor of the beach ball; the further you push the thoughts away the stronger they come back just as the beachball burst from below when held underwater (Stoddard, & Afari, 2014).

These are five alternatives for coping with fear of the future.

1. Find an Anchor

Anchoring exercises are meant to root us in something occurring in the present moment. This could be a sensation like a drink of water, one’s breath, or a sound. As an anchor does for a boat on the water, these experiences and sensations can hold our minds in place in the now.

2. Outline an Intention Just for Today

An intention for today can help keep your eyes on today. Your intention might be as simple as ‘I intend to be kind’ or ‘I intend to enjoy my walk.’ Focusing just on this intention narrows you into the present.

Admiral General M/Pexels

Admiral General M/Pexels

3. Practice a Mantra to Remind You of the Now

A mantra is a word or phrase that can be repeated to keep you steady. This can be as simple as ‘love’ or as complex as a full sentence. My mantra of this kind is ‘All I have to deal with is right now.’ This helps me when I am overwhelmed by things outside my current concerns.

4. Permit yourself to Feel Anxious

Anxiety can be unpleasant. Yet, trying to make ourselves feel less anxious often results in greater anxiety. Giving yourself the freedom to feel this is sometimes necessary to free yourself from an impossible battle.

5. Set Aside a Time for Planning and Seek to Keep Your Worry There

Of course, worrying plays a purpose. It helps us plan for the future. There can be a time and place for that. Setting aside time for planning can help you set boundaries with your worry so it can fulfill its duties and so you can take part in yours.

In Closing

It is difficult to remain in the moment. All of us worry at times. Still, building strategies for what is called Acceptance Commitment Therapy as ‘contact with the present moment’ can help. If worry has captured you in a way that you are unable to overcome on your own, psychotherapy can help. Acceptance Commitment Therapy, in particular, can help you to remember what matters and keep your mind on that.

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