Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Hannah Fuhlendorf M.A, NCC
How To Stop Worrying About the Future
Published Jan 13th, 2022 & updated on Jan 11th, 2022
Are you worrying about the future? We don’t blame you. Thinking about the climate crisis, pandemic, school/work, money, and relationships… it’s kind of a lot.
The tough thing about the future is that it’s going to become the present, whether you want it to or not. If you’re concerned about what will happen after you finish school, fretting about all your friends getting hitched while you’re still unattached, or worried about not being able to pay your bills next month, we feel you. The future has endless possibilities, and sometimes, those possibilities don’t look so good!
We want you to stop worrying so you can live in the present and take the future as it comes. Let’s DiveThru five ways you can stop worrying about the future!
1. Find Local Causes and Organizations
Feeling anxious about the future is totally reasonable, because, well, there’s a whole lot of big things to feel anxious about: climate change, social and economic inequality, the pandemic, and more. Oof.
One person can’t solve these problems alone. But that doesn’t mean you don’t worry about them! So rather than thinking super high-level, you can start locally.
Get online and find local activists interested in the same causes. By reaching out and connecting, you’ll find like-minded people who are passionate about making a change. You can attend a local rally, volunteer with a charity, or get a group together to clean up litter in your area.
You won’t cure world hunger overnight, but you can donate to a food bank and help one person not go hungry for a day. But like Spider-Man’s Aunt May says: “when you help someone, you help everyone.” Focusing on things you can do can help you stop worrying about the things you can’t control.
That’s why we created the course Sustaining the Activist: How to Take Care of Yourself While Changing the World. Therapist Hannah Fuhlendorf shares so many tips on fighting for your cause, getting involved, and practising self-care while making a change. Check it out in the DiveThru app!
2. Smaller Goals, Smaller Time Frames
The thing about the human brain is that we looove short term rewards. It’s why apps like TikTok are so addicting: it shows you a minute or so of the funniest video you’ve ever seen, followed by an endless loop of more funny videos. So much short-term satisfaction! But long-term, there’s nothing there. The key is to take that drive for short-term rewards and turn it into long-term goals.
Say you want to write a screenplay. Rather than picturing it as a whole finished product, think of it as a collection of individual scenes. That way, you break down that big, lofty goal into something more reasonable. Writing a page each day feels much more accomplishable than writing an entire screenplay.
Getting your small goals done will give you that boost of satisfaction from completing a goal while contributing to the longer overall goal. Before you know it, your film Air Bud: Bark to the Future is ready to start production! (Yes, in this imaginary scenario, you create a time-travelling Air Bud movie. Just go with it.)
So how does this relate to worrying about the future? Well, if you’re making small, consistent steps towards your future goals, it can help you alleviate some of that worry about thinking a goal is too big and unattainable, and instead allows you to see satisfying results in short term accomplishments. You might be unsure about when you’ll graduate, but you can focus on nailing your essay that’s due next week, and go from there.
3. Organize Your Life
If you’re the kind of person who shows up to class and finds out that the exam is today, or is always rushing to appointments because you totally forgot to put it in your calendar, getting organized will be a huge step towards not worrying about the future.
Worrying about what you need to remember, or about forgetting what it even was that you forgot (like a Harry Potter Remembrall situation) is stressful af. This is only compounded when the things you’re forgetting are important, like anniversaries, birthdays, due dates, and bills. Ooohh, bills.
It’s important to tackle these issues head on. Getting organized is going to take time and consistency, and taking the first steps is the hardest part.
Set aside some time to go over all of the important dates in your life. Make a calendar with all the stuff you need to remember, like birthdays, anniversaries, due dates, important milestones, bill payments, all of that stuff. Set notifications to come up an appropriate amount of time ahead (project due dates might need a week or two, but your cousin’s birthday could be the day-of). After that’s all set, make it part of your Sunday routine to review the coming week. Need to add a new appointment? Anything you need to prepare for?
A major benefit of maintaining a calendar is reducing the burden on your brain. Your brain keeps important things top-of-mind by constantly making you think of them. That’s why you suddenly remember important things when you’re lying in bed about to fall asleep! But this leads to immense stress. Your brain is already doing A LOT without also being your executive assistant.
Getting all your important dates in one place, along with the weekly check-in, will help you stop worrying, plan ahead, and stay organized.
4. Question Overthinking
Overthinking can definitely make you scared of the future. Your thoughts will start small, but then snowball into something bigger, heavier, and much more self-destructive, like an anxiety avalanche. We don’t want you to get buried in your thoughts!
We have a whole article on overthinking, but we’ll bring up a few points here.Remember that overthinking will make you feel things way more intensely. Instead of worrying about all the awful things that could happen if you mess up something at work in the future, consider something else that you made a mistake on. What was the worst outcome? How did you survive it? How could you survive if your fears about the future became a reality? You’re waaaay more resilient than your overthinking mind will give you credit for.
You can also bust out your journal to work on overthinking (tons of journal prompts in the DiveThru app, just fyi). Write down what you’re worried about, and the evidence for and against it happening. If you’re worried that your future will be awful because you think you’ll be single forever, write down the evidence for that future, and the evidence against it happening. Most of the time, the evidence against is going to be way more convincing than the evidence for.
Besides, if it does seem like something bad is going to happen in the future, you are resilient enough to take it on! You’ve done it before and you can do it again.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Worry is your brain trying to prepare for the worst case future scenarios. Rather than being helpful, worrying raises your stress and anxiety levels, and can lead to rumination, overthinking, and, in extreme cases, anxiety attacks. This is where mindfulness can be super helpful.
Day-to-day life is full of distractions. You exercise with a podcast playing in your ear buds, you watch TV while you eat dinner, and you scroll through social media before bed. You might not even have any obvious external distractions, but your own thoughts are racing in your head all the time. Mindfulness works by slowing down your thoughts and bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
Mindfulness has varying degrees of commitment, so it’s up to you how you want to do it. You can sit criss-cross applesauce on your living room floor and practise steady, slow breathing, feeling the sensations come up, recognizing the worries you may face, accepting them without judgement and letting them drift away. Or you can take five minutes after your commute home to sit in your vehicle in silence to bring awareness to your mind and body.
When you practise mindfulness regularly, you’ll be able to use it as a tool to deal with worrying about the future. It brings you into the present, grounds you, and allows you to accept worried thoughts without being critical of yourself and let those worried thoughts go. SO useful. SO great. There’s a reason why the ancient Buddhist tradition is still practised today!
Basically, You Got This
The future can seem scary, and sometimes, it’s totally justified to be scared. But whether it’s a matter of organization, rallying behind a cause, or practising mindfulness, just know that you can get through it. Everything that you once worried about either didn’t happen, or it did and you survived it. So take a deep breath and embrace the future!