My Anxiety Cure

Cure is perhaps the wrong word, but I have seen this technique work time and time again, in my own life and in the life of others. It worked when I found myself in Los Angeles, lost in the Sepulveda sea, pulling over and enduring my second panic attack of the week.

It worked when I found myself a newlywed but feeling alone, feeling lost, feeling listless. It worked when I cried in the master bedroom, when I cried in the kitchen, it worked every time I have lost a job or a gig or a great opportunity.

It is simply this:

Imagine the worst.

Your brain is already light years ahead of you, because the worst is what you’re crying over anyway. You are not crying because you yelled at your daughter, you are crying because you yelled at your daughter and you think you are never going to get this parenting thing right and in twenty years, this very daughter is going to disinvite you to her wedding, or she’ll elope and move to Cabo and never let you see her grandchildren.

Am I alone in this?

And so, you cry. You get anxious over things that haven’t yet happened, that are happening in your head but not on land.

I once heard a therapist say that she tells all of her clients to imagine the worst. Let your mind wander to it, let your mind touch it and poke it and prod it to find that, really, it’s not all that scary. The monster at the end of the book is simply a house pet. The light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train. The bottomless pit has a bottom, and you get to decide what to do when you reach it.

And once you see the worst – the daughter in Cabo, the tunnel, the train – you’ll find that you will still be breathing. You will still be here.

The job loss was a job loss. It did not end you.

The loneliness was loneliness. It did not end you.

The pit was a pit.

It will not end you.

  • I love this. Thank you for articulating this idea so beautifully! I’ve been doing this for awhile now to cope with my mother’s mental illness and it works wonders.

  • I have been there or somewhere alittle like that. And elsewhere.
    Continuing to be brave… I know that it helped me, that it helps me.
    To accept that I am afraid and that all I can do is indeed to be brave, by which I mean continue to try even when I am terrified. Never stay still in fear of the worse. Remember to be afraid of nothingness as much as of danger…

  • Very good advice. So many of us suffer from anxiety at one time or another and the best thing to do is learn to work through it. Thank you!

  • as a bonus. imagining the worst helps me think of ways to respond to that worst situation, to discover that there are ways, to realise that I have resources enough to deal with them. If I hand in my assignment late, they will deduct 10% from the mark but that will be okay, 90% will still be there. If my boyfriend leaves me I will have more time for friends. Imagining the worst helps remind us we can be fighter, if we have to.
    …Erin, this is glowing and lovely advice for daunting times, as always. THANK YOU, as always, for giving it so generously and so gently.
    Much, much, much love,

    • ahhhh i so agree dora – i hadn’t thought of that added benefit. thank you for being such a positive influence for many!

  • Wow and wow. Thank you for this. I’m making life-altering decisions as I read your outlook and it does help me to know it will not end me.

Comments are closed.