Future Tripping: The Risk of Obsessing About “What Ifs” and How to Prevent It

Future TrippingTaking a mental journey into the future. Dreaming about your goals.

That can actually be stimulating, motivating, inspiring.

The problem starts when your dreams become worries and your journey resembles more a psychedelic horror trip than a blissful daydream.

You may find your mind creating ghastly scenarios of all the bad things that could happen.

What if you don’t pass that test or get that promotion?

What if that strange ache you’ve been dealing with turns out to be something life-threatening?

And what if you never find a way to truly fit in? Or worse even, if you suddenly lose all of the few friends you do have?

Obsessing about it certainly won’t help!

The Risk of Obsessing About the “What Ifs” of Your Future

When situations don’t go as planned, it’s not uncommon to react negatively and start worrying. Though, a pattern of worrying constantly and in extreme measures—and even when things are going well for you—will only make you feel unnecessarily negative, anxious, and unsafe.

For that reason, future tripping—or as it’s officially called “anticipatory anxiety”—can lead you to overwhelming levels of stress. In turn, the anxiety about lacking control over so many things in your future may also have you seeking out coping behaviors that are anything but healthy. This can include everything from unhealthy eating patterns and spending too much money to isolating yourself, drug and alcohol abuse, and even self-harm.

Moreover, when you obsess about imagined negative outcomes it creates fear that robs you of focusing in the present moment. Consequently, your ability to take positive actions freezes, and you become stuck in your future tripping mode.

What can you do to free yourself from this self-defeating cycle?

How to Prevent Future Tripping

Struggling with your worries doesn’t have to be a losing battle. Consider a few helpful tips to banish the “what ifs” from interfering with your enjoyment of life.

Tip #1: Accept yourself for who you are

It’s not a bad thing that you don’t look, think, feel, or behave like everyone else. You’re unique. And that uniqueness is something to embrace and celebrate. When you learn to love yourself—showing yourself some appreciation and compassion—you’ll find that your thoughts become more positive, especially toward your future.

Ask yourself, “What are the beneficial activities I enjoy doing that can help me de-stress?” Then use the energy of these positive actions to keep motivating you.

Tip #2: Stay in the present

As mentioned at the outset, dreaming about your future isn’t all bad, but your main focus really needs to be in the present moment. Don’t miss out on your life now by allowing your mind to keep drifting to unpredictable events in the future. If you keep thinking about the terrible things that could possibly happen, you may eventually believe they will happen.

Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to improve my situation?” In other words, instead of trying to control the uncontrollable, be mindful of the present and focus on what you know and can control.

Tip #3: Become open-minded and learn to adapt

Life has ups and downs; nobody can predict their future. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit of stress due to this uncertainty. True, some things don’t always go as you planned them but, sometimes, the best things that happen are completely unplanned.

Ask yourself, “Is this situation in my control? If not, how I can adapt and move on?” When you learn to be open-minded and roll with the punches, your fear of “what ifs” can lessen a great deal.

Tip #4: Be rational and positive

As noted before, pessimism and obsessing about unfounded worries can paralyze you. You’ll freeze, unable to act because you’re too afraid, too anxious. Your whole life comes to a screeching halt. That will lead you nowhere.

Ask yourself, “Is how I’m reacting rational? How can I react in a more positive and realistic way?” When you stop, take a step back, and analyze the situation from a more logical standpoint, you may find that more positive things happen in your life.

Tip #5: Practice self-soothing

There are probably a lot of things you find enjoyable and comforting. So, when you find yourself in a situation where things don’t go as planned and your mind begins drifting off to those “what ifs,” shift gear and fall back on what makes you feel good. Indulge in a hot bath, let your creative energy out, watch your favorite show, take a long walk, or pumps some iron.

Ask yourself, “Who in my life can be a good influence right now?” Then call a close friend, visit a family member, or hang out with a group of people with whom you share an interest.

Of course, some worries are just too complicated and deeply entrenched to discuss with just anybody. If your constant obsessing about the future has a bad effect on your health, you may want to seek out the help of a specialist. An experienced psychologist or therapist can support you in a practical way to prevent your mind’s journey from becoming a future horror trip.