Stressing In Advance

Excessive Worry About Something Before It Happens

We are all well familiar with stress. It is part of modern life. This is why most of us are seeking to have less stress in our lives. That elusive quest…

Stressing Before It Actually Happens

What about when we are stressed out in advance of difficult circumstances? We start anticipating what might happen, what might go wrong. We anxiously predict that we won’t be able to handle the addition of caring for our spouse after the upcoming surgery, or taking on the tasks that he won’t be able to perform. We worry about the test results. We’re afraid we won’t be able to handle seeing him so sick. 

All these thoughts and emotions come when we anticipate what is to come. We stress before we are actually under stress! 

This is the crazy way our brain works. By worrying about the future, we bring stress into our present. This stress can impact our work, our relationships, our sleep. 

Worried About The Feeling We Will Have

While we may think we are worried about the surgery, the test results, or the expectations of us, what we are actually worried about is how we will feel when those things happen. We anticipate feeling scared, devastated, overwhelmed. It is the feeling we are afraid of having. 

Thoughts Cause Feelings, Not Test Results

The world out there does not determine how we feel. It is our thoughts that cause our feelings. Our thoughts about the surgery or the test results. Our thoughts about what happened will cause us to feel scared, devastated, or overwhelmed. Not the event itself. 

And that is a good thing because we can choose our thoughts! 

Why Does Our Brain Do This?

It’s a survival mechanism. Our brain is wired to look for danger. To do that, it needs to anticipate where that danger will come. So our brain tries to predict what will happen. It will often repeat the scenario so we don’t forget it. It’s trying to be helpful and keep us safe.

What Do We Do About It?

Often when we are stressing in advance, we are convinced we know what’s going to happen. What we think is going to happen feels absolutely true, even though it hasn’t happened yet. Kind of crazy when you think about it!

I find it’s really helpful to remind myself that what I’m anticipating is just my brain trying to protect me and keep me safe. Thinking about it that way helps me to have compassion for myself and my primitive brain. It’s only trying to help.

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