Fear of the future: How to deal with uncertainty

What am I actually doing? What do I want out of my life? Where does it all lead? This is a question asked by many people who are plagued by fears about the future.

Do you know that nagging feeling of uncertainty that comes with change and an uncertain future? You are not alone in this. Many people in different life situations suffer from fear of the future. Here you will find important information on the topic and tips on how you can tackle and overcome your fear of the future.

What is fear of the future?

Fears of the future are widespread and affect countless people in different life situations. All of them are afraid of what is to come.

What are fears of the future actually? According to the Duden dictionary, the term is simply described as "fear of the future". However, the phenomenon is more complex. It includes all the things that may or may not come our way. Fears of the future are usually associated with existential fears and the plaguing uncertainty about one's own path in life. It doesn't matter if it's about the near or distant future.

In brief, it is the fear of change, of uncertainty, of the impact of our decisions, and of the "worst-case scenario". Fears of the future can have various causes.

Causes of fear of the future: why am I afraid of uncertainty?

The causes of anxiety about the future are many and varied. In many cases, there is a concrete reason such as a job loss, the change in the economy due to the Corona Crisis, or the beginning of a new phase in life. However, there doesn't have to be a concrete trigger to feel anxious about the future. A negative attitude or fantasies about negative future scenarios are enough.

For example, one of the main causes of fear of the future can be low self-confidence. It leads to imagining certain scenarios and uncertainties in the future in black and thus looking forward to it in a negative way.

In addition, personal experiences can cause fears about the future or reinforce them. If you often witness negative future scenarios, you conclude that they may occur for you. Fear of the future is therefore a natural reaction.

Fears about the future emerge most frequently during important transitional phases in life: before or after graduation, or when one's job is at risk. When the future is in limbo and there is no concrete plan, fear of the future is a common consequence.

The most common causes of fear of the future include:

  • New stages in life (e.g. after graduation or university)
  • Emerging problems (usually financial or health-related)
  • Economic events and crises
  • Separations and relationship problems
  • Pressure of expectations

Symptoms of fear of the future

People who are troubled by fear of the future suffer from the following common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Fear and panic when looking into the future
  • Feelings of powerlessness or helplessness
  • Sick feeling when thinking about the future
  • Constantly expecting the worst
  • Sleep problems
  • Hours of brooding and imagining negative situations
  • Constant tension and the feeling of not being able to relax
  • The present is overshadowed by fear of the future
  • Compulsive avoidance of conversations about the future
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, racing heart, loss of appetite, panic attacks)

These symptoms can increase and permanently damage sufferers. This is especially true when they affect present and everyday life.

Who suffers from fear of the future?

Anyone can be affected by fear of the future, no matter what stage of life they are in. It cannot be generalized who exactly suffers from fear of the future. Especially at the present time, Corona increases uncertainty and fear of the future. This goes through different generations and social classes. So it is perfectly normal to feel fear of the future.

3 tips: How to stop being afraid of the future?

It doesn't matter whether your fears about the future were triggered by a concrete event or have general causes: You can learn to actively deal with them and overcome them. You do not just have to live with them. If necessary, professional help is at your side. It offers a good complement and helps to successfully deal with anxiety, especially if it develops into an anxiety disorder or depression.

There are several things you can do yourself to conquer and overcome your fears about the future. We have summarized some tips for your everyday life:

1) Work on your self-confidence

Lack of self-confidence is a common cause of strong fears about the future. That's why working on your self-confidence is all the more important. Instead of your weaknesses, keep thinking about your strengths. Make a list in which you put both of them side by side and think about how your strengths can have a positive effect on your future. The more confidence you have in yourself, the less fear you will have.

2) Put the future in perspective

People who are afraid of uncertainty often imagine the worst. So try to gain a little distance and put your fears in a new light. Take a look at the past and analyze your fears in their context. How often has the worst-case scenario actually happened? How often have you had positive experiences and successes? Compare your fears with the probability that they will actually occur.

For example, conduct a small thought experiment: Write down your fears and think about what could happen in the best case.

Develop strategies for responding positively to anxiety-provoking situations. For example, you're afraid of an upcoming interview and not getting the job. Isn't it just as likely that you will be offered the job? Maybe you will get along great with your interviewer and a new friendship will develop. And if it doesn't work out this time, you have your strategy in mind: you've done a training session. After all, practice makes perfect. Your interviewer will certainly be willing to give you tips on what you can do better next time.

3) Focus on the here and now

Especially in times of Corona crisis, it helps to focus on the here and now: What are you doing now in your home or garden? Concentrate on your current task in the home office or the conversation you are having with a loved one. Don't think about what might happen tomorrow or a month from now, or what's happening hundreds of miles away.

To better focus on the here and now, it can be helpful to reduce your social media consumption or set up a partial news blackout. Social media and news distract you and unfortunately often focus on negative events. This encourages ruminating, affects your anxiety about the future, and takes you out of the here and now. Meditations and relaxation exercises can also help you stay in the here and now.

Help and exchange when you have a fear of the future

We cannot emphasize it often enough: You are not alone with your fear of the future. Right now, many people are suffering from fear of the future and as the saying goes, a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved. So the most important tip for dealing with fear of the future is to share it and exchange it with others.

Professional help for fear of the future

Do you have the feeling that your fears are getting out of hand and are having too strong an effect on your everyday life? Then it is advisable to seek professional help. This can take many forms, ranging from group therapy to individual sessions with a therapist.

Exchange with likeminded people

Especially in the area of fears about the future and how to deal with them, it helps to exchange ideas with likeminded people. Isolation is not a solution when dealing with fears about the future. It is beneficial to concretize and express fears. So find a familiar environment with whom you can share your fears: with a friend, your family, or in a group with others.

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