Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Grounding Yourself In The Present Moment To Combat Anxiety

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When unwanted life events make the future cloudy existential anxiety skyrockets. This anxiety is often funneled into obsessive ruminating around various possible bad outcomes. The imagination runs wild, which reinforces and strengthens the existential anxiety already there, causing a vicious anxiety loop where painful negative feelings are nourished and flourish. The anxiety causes terrifying guesses about what the future might hold, terrifying guesses about what the future might hold cause more anxiety.

Actively grounding yourself in the here and now is the best way to interrupt that vicious anxiety loop. Because from the present you can remind yourself that those guesses about the future might end up coming true and they might not end up coming true, but right here right now you’re safe, right here right now you’re okay. Those bad outcomes you’re so worried about haven’t come to pass yet.

You can focus your attention on your breathing and say to yourself, “Breathing in I ground myself in the present moment, breathing out I’m safe in the present moment.” In cognitive behavioral terms the two faulty thinking patterns most responsible for your distress around the unknown future that grounding yourself in the present moment combats are catastrophizing and fortune telling. Catastrophizing predicts worst case scenarios and operates as if they were highly likely, fortune telling takes some future scenario, usually an unwanted one, and operates as if it were a foregone conclusion.

Grounding yourself in the present moment is not meant to be a method of distraction where you bury your head in the sand, ignoring the headlights bearing down on you, but is rather meant to be a method to find some relief from painful existential anxiety and the tunnel vision that results from it so that from a place of peace and clarity you can better take care of yourself in the present moment and make rational, reasonable preparations to prepare as best you can for the future. Right now you’re okay, and from that place of being okay you create the psychic space necessary to decide what you need to do to be okay in the future too.

Whether the feared future comes to pass or not, when you allow yourself to be swept away by your anxiety, swept away by catastrophizing and fortune telling, you suffer for it now, you pay the price in terms of extreme emotional distress and the reduced quality of life it entails.