15 Things Therapists Do When They’re Worried About The Future

We turn to therapists to help us navigate life and the difficult situations that come up. And although they may seem to be experts on how to work through feelings of anxiety, worry and fear, it doesn’t mean that they don’t encounter their own struggles as well.

The state of the world ― between the coronavirus pandemic, police brutality and racism, record unemployment and more ― is deeply affecting people, including mental health professionals. It makes many of us fear for what the immediate and distant futures could look like.

So what are some ways therapists deal? We asked them.

Take a break

Angelle E Richardson, assistant professor at the community and trauma counselling program at Thomas Jefferson University, said there’s nothing wrong with needing to take a step back if you’re feeling too overwhelmed.

Turn off the news and log off of social media for an hour or two so you can spend some time reading or doing another self-care activity. Nothing can change long-term if you don’t take care of yourself and give your mind space.

“If we stop, pause and step away from what we’re doing or worrying about, it gives us time to think and reflect, which may put things in perspective,” Richardson said.

Focus on what you can control

“It sounds simple, but I make a list of the things I can control and let go of the rest,” said Sean Davis, a marriage and family therapist and psychology professor at Alliant International University.

Identify what those control measures are for you, then take action. For example, you can wear a face mask outside; you can donate to organisations; you can have meaningful conversations with family and friends; you can apply for jobs as they become available; you can maintain a healthy routine that benefits your mental health. This will help ground you when your anxiety skyrockets.

A lot of people are struggling with uncertainty about the future and anxiety right now. 

Apply the AWARE technique

Zlatin Ivanov, a psychiatrist in New York City, uses the “AWARE” system to work through an anxious cycle:

Accept that you are feeling anxious and directly identify it as what you’re feeling. Watch the anxiety and grade it on a scale. Act normal as much as you possibly can through talking and your breath. Repeat the previous three steps if necessary. Expect the best. You are taking control of the fear instinct and taming and training it.

Try a grounding exercise

Erika Updegrove, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City, said she engages in a grounding exercise when she feels anxious: “I put my feet firmly on the floor and I imagine that my feet are much like the roots of a tree. I envision that my ‘roots’ go way down below the street level and I am anchored into place, immovable.”

You can also focus on other tangible things around you. For example, prompt your mind to notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

Sit in your anxiety for a while

It sounds counterintuitive and uncomfortable, but the point is to normalize the feeling. Because anxiety is natural.

“I will tell myself to ‘sit’ with the anxiety and that it is OK that it is there,” said Jeffrey Kassinove, co-founder of Therapy West in New York City. “When you are afraid, it means there are too many unknowns for us to make a prediction. So, I sit tight and let time fill in those unknowns as the future becomes the present day.”

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