The phrase, “The world is your oyster,” is supposed to be a comforting mantra about the many exciting opportunities the future has to offer. We might hear it when we’re about to graduate college or high school, or when we’re in the market for a new job. But more often than not, there’s a level of fear surrounding this statement.
The future is an overwhelming concept for many people, whether due to difficult choices needing to be made, too many options or possibilities and the ever-present anxiety of not being 100 percent sure what is to come. But — to be frank — the future is never going away and so the best we can do is learn to appropriately cope with feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed by it.
How to deal with feeling overwhelmed
You may feel overwhelmed by a number of things — maybe you’re planning a wedding, trying to decide what job to take after college or feeling a lot of anxiety from global or political occurrences. Whatever is overwhelming you, it’s crucial to your mental health to put into practice strategies guaranteed to calm you down and give you some healthy perspective.
1. Take a break from social media/the internet
Thanks to the internet and mainstream media, we have constant access to information about global occurrences 24/7. When we are constantly inundated with the tragedies of the world (especially ones that we have no control over), we can begin to feel hopeless, panicked and completely overwhelmed by what might happen.
A simple way to cope is by periodically shutting off the news; you do not need to (and should not) constantly be in the know. Not following politics daily doesn’t make you a bad American; infrequently checking local news does not make you a neglectful citizen. You have enough going on in your personal life; there’s no need to increase anxiety by also internalizing global problems you can’t control.
2. Don’t focus on what cannot be changed
The more you stress about those things you have little control over — “Who is going to be the new manager?” “What if we’re hit by this hurricane?” “What if the cost of living continues to rise?” — the more you will feel anxious and overwhelmed.
There are certain things you can’t control — like the rising cost of living. But there are certain things within your power you can do to help minimize the stress you feel. For example, you can focus more on building a savings account so that you have money tucked away when needed, or you can choose to purchase a used vehicle for the sake of living within your means and minimizing the financial stress of a car note.
When something occurs that is out of your control, focus on what you can have an influence on, put your energy towards that and peacefully relinquish the rest.
3. Practice mindfulness
On a more personal level, the future may seem scary when you’re having difficulty finding a job or picking the right college. Since you feel like you’re on unstable footing, the future consequently feels overwhelming.
It’s okay to question the next stage of life, but try not to be consumed by uncertainty. Spend time reflecting. Mindfulness gives you a clearer head and an increased ability to make sound decisions. Make a pros and cons list, listen to your gut and allow the techniques learned through mindfulness to lead you toward peaceful decision-making.
4. Become more aware of your thoughts
Your thoughts about the future aren’t reality—they are simply thoughts. Thinking about the potential stresses and anxieties of the future is only going to make you feel more stressed and anxious now. The reality of the future may actually turn out to be much different than whatever potential reality your thoughts concocted.
Since you don’t know what the future will bring, try to limit what intrusive thoughts you allow to manifest in your mind. When you feel them coming on, or experience them suddenly, try to instead focus on the inhale and exhale of your breath, the sights and sounds around you and the moment in which you find yourself. Learning to limit panicked thoughts about the future will, in turn, limit the fear of the future.
5. Reach out for help
If frightening thoughts are dominating your thinking and you’re finding it hard to control thoughts, feelings and emotions, or are repeatedly responding to stressors in an unhealthy way, it may be time to consider reaching out for help. A licensed professional can help you identify healthier ways of thinking and behaving to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Help for the future
The future can be frightening for anyone, especially when it is full of unknowns. However, learning to control intrusive thoughts, being peaceful with relinquishing control and learning to cope with uncertainty in healthy ways can help minimize fear of the future and anxiety about “what may happen.”
To get in touch with a counselor and begin your journey towards mindfulness and peacefulness, contact The Light Program today by calling us at 610-644-6464.