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Did you know that most times the anticipation is so much worse that the reality?

I was talking, the other day, to a person in a high risk health category and they told me how they had thought that if they caught Covid-19 that they would certainly end up on a ventilator due to the nature of their pre-existing health conditions. They did catch the virus and suffered loss of smell and taste – something that they had not even been considered! Sure, it was unpleasant not to taste those Christmas treats, but in the scheme of things-not the catastrophe expected.

That person did what many of us do – which is to play out the worst case scenario and this in turn can make us more and more anxious….. like rolling a snowball in the snow; The bigger it gets and the more weight it gains, it picks up more and more (it’s snowing as I write). Did you know that most times the anticipation is so much worse that the reality? Anticipation involves going over ALL those terrible possibilities, all at once, fuelled by the brain’s capacity to consider multiple options quickly. Each horrible thought can increase stress hormone cortisol and trigger fight flight response (which is responsible for panic attack)

Just ask yourself; when was the last time you accurately predicted the detail of the outcome of something you worried about? Perhaps you did predict and prepare, and you are glad you spent that time worrying? Perhaps you think you are good at predictions? How many things did you worry about didn’t happen? What happened that took you totally by surprise? How was your attention to and enjoyment of your life while you were worrying? However much you worry I will bet that at the very worst only a small minority of options you anxiously considered actually happened. One definition of anxiety is that it is; an over estimation of the risk and an under estimation of our ability to cope if the worst happens.

Listening to people in therapy over the last 20 years tells me that people are stronger than they think – they deal with things so much better than they expect to – they survive – people never say to me that they wish they had worried more. In fact, the opposite; people wish they had worried less, been more present in their lives and in their relationships – enjoyed their moments with greater attention to the here and now. Often the big thing clients worried about, actually gives them this gift! The big loss of a loved one leads people to invest more in their current relationships, the cancer leads to a cherishing of life like never before.

I liked this saying that one of my clients told me many years ago ….

‘Worry is like a rocking chair – it keeps you busy but it gets you nowhere’.
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john sheira
john sheira
May 25, 2023

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