Irrational fears and worst-case scenario thinking might be normal and natural, but there are ways you can combat them. You can use your rationality and different methods to face those fears. Here are tips and methods on how to face irrational fears and worst-case scenario thinking.
Related: How to stop being shy (Tips, advice & sharing my personal story)
Why do we have irrational fears and worst-case scenario thinking
It’s normal for humans to feel worried about hypothetical things that could happen.
It’s most likely a feature of the human mind that developed from evolution, where such thinking prepared us for the worst and made us able to foresee possible future events.
If for example, we could imagine a dangerous lion attacking us at night, we could take precautions to protect ourselves from it. For example, by covering fires, hiding in caves, and keeping watch at night.
The difference is that in modern society, we don’t really have to think about deadly threats like that. We are safer now than we have ever been in the history of mankind.
But the same mechanics are still there, egging us on, making us afraid, anxious, and worried. Instead of worrying about actual threats to our existence, our mind instead blows things out of proportion. The problem though is that it doesn’t help us that much anymore.
Related: How to Overcome Worst-Case Scenarios Thinking
Why you should learn to face irrational fears
To live with excessive and irrational fears and worst-case scenarios is unpleasant. Especially if you don’t know how to manage such worries and instead let your mind run free into the depths of irrationality.
These unpleasant feelings and fears can be worked through though, and I think you should learn how to do that.
If you don’t learn how to face irrational fears and worst-case scenarios, you may spend your entire life paralyzed. Not able to do what you dream of doing, or live the life that you feel so strongly that you should be living.
Fear paralyzes us. And by being paralyzed from taking action, you are also indirectly letting other people dictate your life for you. You are living someone else’s dreams and spending your life minimizing yourself when you don’t need to.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to overcome and face irrational fears.
How to face irrational fears & worst-case scenarios
There are an endless amount of different methods you can use. Including but not limited to conversational therapy, journaling, and self-discovery, exposure therapy, using substances, rationalizing with yourself, and so on.
I won’t go into every single method, instead, I’ll show you the methods that I personally have tried and that have already worked for me.
Step 1: What are you afraid of? Get clarity
Before we can rationalize our fears, we first need to know what exactly our fears are. So, it’s time for you to get to know yourself and your deepest fear.
Write down exactly what it is you are afraid will happen and why?
Why are you afraid of what will happen? Why does that particular thing scare you? Ask yourself “why”, again and again, until you have reached the root of your irrational fear.
Step 2: How could you handle that event (if it happened)?
Now when you know what it is you’re fearful of, you will counter each fear with actions you could take if that fear would come true.
- Be realistic: How likely is it really that such an event would happen? Most likely, it won’t even happen.
- Damage control: If this fear happened, what could you do to help yourself in that situation? What would your alternatives be?
Most likely, when you’ve done this, your fear will disperse. You might still have a slight worry about it, but it won’t be a panicky feeling. You won’t let that fear stop you from taking action.
We can live with fear, we can do things in spite of fear. But the first step to actually facing those fears is easily done when we feel safe and have a backup plan on what to do if our fears turn into reality.
Apart from rationalizing away irrational fears (as told above), you can also help yourself in other ways.
- Just do it. Expose yourself to your fear over and over again. With time, your brain will learn that it will survive and has nothing to fear.
- Read and learn about success stories about people who have done what you want to do, and didn’t encounter any of your fears. Or who encountered what you are scared of, but managed to overcome it. This will shift your perception of perceived threat and danger
- Breathe deeply. Fear and stress can take form as physical representations: faster heartbeats, sweating, tension in the body, and more. By relaxing your body and breathing deeply, you are reversing the effect. When you take back control of your physical body, that in turn affect the mind as well
- Turn to best-case scenario thinking. There are literally an infinite amount of possible future scenarios, an infinite amount. Worst-case scenarios are your brain picking out and focusing on the absolute worst imaginable possibility; that’s why such fears often are so ridiculous. Instead, you can combat this by actively choosing to focus and think about the best possible scenario that could happen. So, every time you think about the worst-case scenario, also think about the best-case scenario. This will give you perspective
- Be here, now. Returning to the present moment removes much if not all of our fears. As long as you are alive, you don’t have any problems. As long as you are alive, you can fix any problems that may happen. Right now, you don’t have any real problems. Any fears or worst-case scenarios are mind-made fictional thoughts. By returning to the present moment, you gain mental distance from your fears
Some people also say that it can be good to get comfortable in the feeling of fear. I’m not quite sure about that yet though, since I mostly aim to get rid of the feeling of fear in its entirety instead of pushing through pain. But, if it works for people, then it works.
Example from my own life
I’m a person who thinks a lot, and I can experience a lot of anxiety or irrational fears about future scenarios. Whatever decision I consider, my mind defaults to worst-case scenarios.
So, that’s why I’ve had to learn methods to deal with such thoughts and push myself past such fears to be able to live how I want to live.
One of the most recent examples from my life was when I wanted to quit my job to pursue other dreams. This action caused my brain to go overdrive on generating irrational fears and it took me months to move past worst-case scenario thinking. I knew what I wanted to do, but the fear stopped me.
Until then, I did all of the above-mentioned things. And I really mean that I needed to do all of the above methods. Repeatedly.
My biggest concern was money-concerns. I imagined myself becoming homeless, starving, and dying on the streets. My mind chose to pick and focus on every worst-case scenario every step of the way until I was there mentally.
To move past this, I had to practice returning to the here and now constantly. I needed to practice returning to the present, to breathe deeply, to take back control of my physical reactions to the fear.
Then I needed to set a new mindset where I also imagined the best-case scenario for my future. I read and talked to others who had successfully accomplished what I wanted to do. I needed to change my focus from worst-case scenarios to the best possible outcome that could happen.
I also sat down and made lists and tables where one side was statements of what I was afraid were gonna happen, and on the other side, I wrote down how I could practically handle every imaginable situation.
I did this so much that I even started thinking about working as a risk manager (lol).
But with time, my fears subsided enough to make me able to do what I wanted to do! And now when I look back, I can see how I didn’t have to worry about any of the things I worried about. But that’s always easy to say in hindsight.
Since then, I’ve used these methods to actively challenge any fears I might have. And it’s been liberating, freeing, and exciting.
I really hope that these tips can help you as well to your owb face irrational fears and worst-case scenario thinking.