This is a time of high anxiety for many of us. Multiple crises have been buffeting us for months and are keeping people of all political affiliations and beliefs on edge.
If you suffer the mental and physical effects of living in an anxious state, you may have noticed the following: you feel the most discomfort when you dwell on scary pictures of what the future will bring.
Maybe you think that dwelling on such thoughts is a way to prepare and protect yourself. But in fact, anxiety  is directly related to negative anticipation arising from negative imagination.
When we’re lost in negative imagination, we project images of unwanted moments to come that our minds create. Then we struggle, in vain, to resolve them. The pictures of a scary future produced by negative imagination feel very real to us. And we will continue to suffer from them as long as they remain unchallenged.
But we can free ourselves by doing targeted work.
How to stop worrying
Here are four simple practices you can follow to help you loosen the grip of negative imagination when it begins to work its way into your heart and mind:
Practice #1 – Be a Storm Watcher
Pictures of an uncertain future are made more difficult to bear by the fearful feelings that come with them. But fear does not have to be an inevitable partner of uncertainty.
When conditions look like they are about to bring a storm (for example, when you imagine all the problems that might come from possibly losing your job), quietly become aware of yourself, watch how the storm of agitated thoughts and feelings is stirring up disturbing images and dragging you in.
After all, you don’t even know if you will lose your job, or what will happen if you do. And fearful imaginings now won’t help you deal with the moment properly if it does come. Each time you can awaken from self-produced nightmares and stop giving them your attention, you will reclaim your natural confidence and calm at the moment.
[Also Read: How Anxiety Affects Health and Longevity]
Practice #2 – Learn How to Grow From Unwanted Moments
We feel unable to escape unwanted circumstances because we listen to negative inner voices that tell us how to resolve the moment is to blame someone, fix something, fight, or run away. Because of this, we miss what that moment actually could have given us.
An event that could have been used to make us stronger and more resilient is turned into another dead end.
We can rise above the limitations of our present nature if we dare to let go of the part of us that insists its limited view of life is the only one possible. We cannot create a life without limits by hating and battling against what we think stands in our way.
A limitless life comes with this higher understanding: what is in our way is part of the way. To know this is to know that you have the power to use everything for your good and even more encouraging, you have been made for everything that happens to you.
[Also Read: How to cope with Stress]
Practice #3 – Let Nagging Questions Go Unanswered
When life disturbs us, we’re filled with questions that we rush to answer. What will happen? What will this mean for me? What will I do if he does that? Without even knowing if those are the right questions, we go deep into imagination instead of allowing the moment to reveal itself for what it is.
When you feel stressed, listen to what life is trying to tell you about yourself instead of immediately searching for familiar answers, you can apply to make life feel “right” again. All fearful moments secretly reflect what we have not yet understood about life and ourselves, and do not mean that life is rejecting us or our wish for happiness.
Learn how to go quiet when there’s a riot in you. Going still invites higher wisdom to meet the situation for you.
[Also Read: How to get rid of Social Anxiety]
Practice #4 – Do What Is in Your Power, and Refuse to Do What Is Not
Of course, we all wish that certain conditions could unfold without so much suffering in them. But, when we are faced with unwanted circumstances, we must learn to walk into them with the wish to see the lessons they hold for us.
And one of those lessons is that we can’t control everything. We can’t control what others will do, or if the economy will tank, or if a wildfire or storm will threaten our home. But we can control whether we will learn from the situation instead of falling into useless negativity.
I Do what is in your power and refuse to do what is not. You cannot change the nature of difficult people or events, but you can change the way you respond to them. Take practical steps as best as you can. Then let it go. If you do, an event that might have flattened you is transformed into one that will lift you up forever.
Finally, the future is uncertain for all of us, but anxious thoughts can make us suffer over things that don’t exist right now. Use these four practices to grow stronger inwardly now, and then you will have the confidence of knowing you will have higher resources to help you handle whatever the future brings.
About The Author:
Guy Finley is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and bestselling self-help author. He is the Founder and Director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for transcendent self-study located in Merlin, Oregon. Guy presents two talks a week via GoToWebinar. Each talk is followed by a Question-and-Answer session with the audience. These classes are free and open to all. To register visit www.guyfinley.org/online