We’ve all been there – you’ve got a big presentation at work coming up, or you know all eyes will be on you during that speech at your BFF’s wedding.
Depending on your anxiety levels, the pre-event stress can cause everything from an uncomfortable sense of unease to full-blown panic. In fact, rumination – or running things through over and over in your head – is a common symptom of anxiety.
Anxious or not, though, the pre-event jitters can get the best of all of us. Luckily, licensed therapist Jeff Guenther, known on TikTok as Therapy Jeff, has offered five things to say to yourself when you’re panicking about a future event – and I’ve already found them helpful.
Here are his words of wisdom:
1) Your future self will figure it out
If you’ve ever left that crusted-on baking tray ’til tomorrow or held off on sorting that all-important paperwork for just a litttttle too long, you’re probably familiar with sweet, selfless “future you”. This is a version of yourself who faces the problems you either create or have to deal with down the line.
And while it turns out that “future you” might not actually like vacuuming any more than present you does, the concept can be useful in the case of pre-planned events, Guenther says.
“Right now, you might not have all the information and data to discern precisely how you’ll handle the situation,” the therapist shared. “And as the events unfold, you’ll gain the insights needed to make an informed decision.”
“Until that moment arrives,” he advises, “trust in your future self’s capability to make intelligent choices based on the circumstances at hand.“
2) What if it works out?
Why is it that spirals are so rarely positive? I can easily imagine saying the wrong thing to a friend, losing my entire social circle, and becoming a social pariah. Picturing myself cracking the perfect joke, impressing just the right people, and landing the pals of my dreams, though? Somehow, that’s trickier.
Guenther encourages some happier projections than flat-out stress, though. “It’s natural to worry about all the things that could go wrong,” he begins, before adding that “it’s equally important to visualise success.”
“Consider the possibility of things not just going right, but better than expected,” challenges Guenther. “Use this as a source of inspiration and motivation. Visualise yourself succeeding and use the positive energy to drive your actions.”
3) What’s the worst-case scenario?
I get it: if you tend to run a little on the stress-y side, asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” might feel like an unhelpful thing to do. But Guenther reckons it could help to realistically reframe the situation.
“This isn’t about expecting the worst,” he explains, “but rather about understanding and accepting the full range of possible outcomes.”
“Once you’ve identified the worst possible outcome, consider how you might handle it. This can be a great source of resilience – and you’ll realise that even in the worst-case scenario, you’ll find a way to cope and move forward.”
4) I’ve survived everything so far; no reason I can’t survive this
Yes, I know, it can feel a lot like a snide comment or a side eye at your work friend’s leaving drinks could literally end your life. But Guenther invites us to consider – well, I mean it’s just probably not true, is it?
“Reflect on your past experiences,” Guenther says. “Remember the times you thought you wouldn’t make it, but you did – or the times when it did turn out horrible, but you got through it.”
“This is a testament to your strength and resilience,” he adds. “You’re stronger than you think, and this new challenge will be another milestone that you’ll overcome.”
5) This moment is not forever
We really are negative-leaning as a species, aren’t me? Because somehow, happy, “good” moments can feel fleeting and unearned – but moments of panic and upset manage to make us feel like they’ll go on forever. Of course, this isn’t the case.
“It’s important to remember that life is a continuous ebb and flow,” the therapist says. “Moments of stress and anxiety, like everything else, are temporary.”
“The event or situation that you’re worried about has a finite time span,” he states. “Once it passes, it’ll be one among many experiences you’ve lived through.”
“Keep the bigger picture in mind to maintain perspective during tough times,” he finishes.
All pretty sound advice, right? You can watch the full TIkTok here::
Help and support:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- Beat, Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677 and Youthline: 0808 801 0711 or email email@example.com (adults) firstname.lastname@example.org (youth support)
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org