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How to overcome your fear of the future according to a psychotherapist

Also known as anticipatory anxiety, futurophobia can make us feel jumpy and restless. Here's how to overcome it, according to  psychotherapist Helen Wells

Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
13 May 2024
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In today's rapidly changing world with climate change, technological advancements, global conflict and the cost-of-living crisis on our minds, it's normal to feel anxious about what the future holds – whether that be anxiety in relation to your personal life or what’s going on in the world more broadly.

However, for some individuals, anxiety about a future event or situation can impact everyday life – and recently, we have been seeing more and more of our clients at The Dawn experiencing anxiety about the future in relation to recent societal challenges caused by world events' – a term I have coined as 'futurophobia,' though another term commonly used for this type of anxiety is anticipatory anxiety.

What is futurophobia?

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Helen Wells shares her advice for overcoming fear of the future

Futurophobia is an intense fear and anxiety of the future, characterised by persistent worries about upcoming events and situations. This can be related to events specifically impacting you or events going on in the world.

In recent years, the world has experienced numerous challenges, from the pandemic and rise of artificial intelligence to economic instability and climate change. These uncertainties have naturally contributed to a heightened sense of anxiety about the future for many people.

Additionally, the constant exposure to negative news and social media can exacerbate these worries, making it difficult for us to maintain a positive outlook and switch off.

Symptoms of futurophobia


The symptoms of futurophobia, AKA anticipatory anxiety, have a lot of crossovers with general anxiety and can include

●  Feelings of apprehension or dread.

● Feeling tense or jumpy.

● Restlessness or irritability.

● Anticipating the worst about known and unknown future events.

● Avoidance of long-term planning or committing to plans.

●  Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath.

● Physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, sweating, tremors and twitches – particularly when thinking or talking about the future.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak to your GP or a psychotherapist as there are steps you can take to manage your anxiety.

READ: Why does routine make me happy? Experts explain the link between routines and mental health 

Overcoming futurophobia

 Practice mindfulness

Engage in mindfulness exercises, such as mindfulness meditation or mindfulness walking, to help you focus on the present moment and reduce anxiety about the future. It can take practice, but mindfulness is a great tool for regulating your emotions.

Full length shot of an attractive young woman sitting on a mat and meditating at home© Getty
Meditating can help with anticipatory anxiety

Use grounding techniques

Breathwork is a great on-the-spot aid when we're suffering from panic

Challenge negative thoughts

When you catch yourself worrying about the future, take a step back and question the validity of your concerns. Ask yourself, 'Is this a realistic worry, or could I be catastrophising?'.

If you are unable to control what you are concerned about, for example, the state of the economy, this can be particularly helpful.

 DISCOVER: What are limiting beliefs and why are they stopping you from feeling happy? 

Try relaxation techniques

Incorporate relaxation techniques in your daily routine to help calm your mind and body. These don’t have to be time-consuming, for example, listen to calming music, try out visualisation, yoga, muscle relaxation, or gentle stretches.

 

Woman stretching in the office© Getty
Stretching can create a window of pause in your day

DISCOVER: Why desk-dwellers really need to try assisted stretch 

Seek support

Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional about your concerns. Sharing your worries can help you gain perspective and feel less alone.

two beautiful woman talking together on cozy balcony© Getty
Confiding in our friends can ease anticipatory anxiety

Prioritise sleep

Getting good quality and length of sleep is really important in easing feelings of anxiety, so I would advise trying to get into a consistent sleep routine as much as possible.

Limit media and social media consumption

Be mindful of your media intake, especially if it contributes to your anxiety. Set boundaries around news and social media consumption, and focus on positive, uplifting content. There are a lot of worrying news stories out there, but there are also many positive stories!

While it's very natural to have concerns about the future, it's important to address anxiety if it is impacting your everyday life. By practicing these strategies and seeking support when needed, you can learn to manage your anxiety about the future.

Helen Wells is a psychotherapist and Clinical Director at The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab.

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