Thanks to the pandemic and it being an election year, 2020 has been a rough year for people with anxiety—whether they had an existing diagnosis, or are experiencing that unwanted feeling (and its many side effects) for the first time. A lot of that stems from all the uncertainty we’ve been facing: Not knowing when life will go back to some version of normal, and what might happen to us between now and then.
When we’re unsure about the future and what comes next, it can be easy to imagine all the bad things that could happen. That may seem like a good idea—one that could help you mentally prepare for something awful—but it’s not, and can make your anxiety worse. One alternative to that is approaching the unknown with a sense of curiosity and wonder instead of dread. Here’s how to do that.
How to use curiosity to cope with anxiety
Instead of jumping to the worst possible scenarios, clinical psychologist Dr. Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco suggests looking at your uncertain future with curiosity, rather than a horrible outcome being a foregone conclusion. Here’s how she explains the concept in Psychology Today:
I don’t mean to suggest that catastrophe won’t occur. It has occurred, for many of us, many times over since this virus began. But it’s also possible that what you fear most will not happen. Leaving yourself open to that possibility—however slight—can keep you from sliding down into a pit of dread and despair. And if you’re not despairing, you’re far more likely to come up with effective ways for coping with the situation in question, whether it’s devising a schedule for quarantine school days or figuring out how you can safely see school friends outdoors for your kid’s birthday.
This is going to be especially important during the holidays this year, given that they’re going to look a bit different—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.