This article is not for people who are paralyzed by worry. It’s for the garden-variety handwringer.
Perhaps it’s best if we work from specifics.
This would seem to be the biggie because unlike, for example, fear of snakes, spiders, heights, people, or closed-in spaces, this one really is going to kill you.
Yet we might not find it so worrisome if we remember that we weren’t aware of anything before we were born, so we won’t be aware of anything after we die. So, in fact, death may not be so worth fearing.
Ulnless you believe you’re headed for heaven or hell, after we die, we won’t be able to do any more things. But there’s even a silver lining in that: It reminds us to do what we can while we can.
It’s not as easy to wipe away fear of the dying process--We hear too many stories of painful deaths. Perhaps the best option is to realize that when the pain of living exceeds that of dying, you can probably find a way to off yourself, for example, through the Final Exit Network.
But what about forestalling dying and death? Your best shot, alas, is still probably the standard advice that's easier said than done: Keep your weight and stress down, eat mainly veggies and fruit, exercise, and don’t smoke nor abuse alcohol or drugs.
What if you catastrophize bodily sensations: You jump right to “What if it’s (insert horrible disease?) You might remind yourself of what my doc told me: Most not-scary-severe pains aren’t serious. If they last a while, go see your doc who can probably help, and in the very worst case--like Stage IV cancer--per the above, you can off yourself. With a plan like that in mind, try to distract yourself from the sensation and its catastrophization by turning your attention to some absorbing activity.
For more in this vein, you might look at another of my PsychologyToday.com articles: A Light-Handed Approach to Your Health.
People won’t like you
Many adults still suffer from the teenager’s core worry: “Do people like me?”
If now, as an adult, you still significantly fear that most people dislike you, chances are that has some legitimacy. The standard advice is to work on yourself but might you want to consider accepting that, at your age, you may not be able to change that much? Instead, consider limiting your social life to people who like you as-is. That might reduce your worry and increase your happiness more than continuing to try to remake your personality.
That said, this tip has helped some of my clients: Beware of trying too hard: being so nice you get taken for granted or even seen as toadying--You may have to leave a little mystery.
Fear of public speaking may be the most common fear. These may reduce it:.
- Don’t memorize your talk. Plan it but then reduce it to an outline that fits on an index card or four. Not being tied to a script is relaxing. Just talk, connecting with your audience.
- Be authentic. Just speak your truth in your conversational style, perhaps a little more slowly. No phony motivational speaker persona.
- Know that mistakes are no big deal. Most people will remember only the overall impression. If you are prepared and authentic, it’ll be okay, even if you screw-up some.
- Perspective. Every week, millions of earthlings flap their lips before live and recorded audiences and a week later, there will be more millions. And most of the listeners will have forgotten 95% of what the previous week’s lip-flappers said. So yes, try but the world, even your small corner of the world, is unlikely to change much as a result, alas.
Apart from specific worries, many people go through life with free-floating anxiety. They’re like the cartoon character who walks around with a cloud overhead, worrying they’ll be deluged by some havoc.
Simplistic I know, but sometimes music can mitigate, for example, having a few bars of a simple, pleasant song rolling around in your head. It’s a Small World After All often works for me. Equally simplistic, it may help to remind yourself to be grateful for the good in your life and in the world.
Alas, that’s all I have for you. Not enough, I suspect. Of course, feel free to add a comment below that might be more helpful. And of course, as I mentioned up front, severe anxiety is probably better addressed with a professional offering counseling and/or medication.
Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to his articles here on PsychologyToday.com, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on www.martynemko.com. Of Nemko's seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. His bio is on Wikipedia.