I find it’s a good exercise to think to yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then, you quantify it and your fear subsequently subsides. This is an entirely unoriginal line of thought, and I think I first saw it in Tim Ferriss’s book.
In any case, I applied it last semester when it looked as if there was a 0% chance that my classmates and I would turn in our final project on time. I did some mental calculation and figured the worst thing that could happen would be failing the class. Even with that, I could take an extra class the next semester and still graduate. I actually checked my transcript and realized that I could graduate, even without taking the extra class. It allowed me to stay calm. Really, you work better when you stay calm. It’s impossible to work when you panic. Even when people note that they do their best work under pressure, it’s not because of panic. It’s because the time constraint forces them to focus, and they drive everything else from their mind.
I recently published my fears about taking TCM more seriously, and I realized that they were all rather silly.
I’ve started to use the scenarios of others to practice this exercise. What if I was in their “crisis” scenario? Would things really be as bad as the person makes it out to be? Is it the end of the world? I think in my head: What’s the rational solution? What are the rational consequences? When you’re not dealing with yourself, it’s much easier to separate the emotions that cause you to catastrophize and see the problem more clearly.
In conjunction with defining fears and looking for solutions, I like to look on the bright side of things. For example, when the airlines lost my baggage, I thought, “Yeah, this sucks, but at least I have an excuse to buy new clothes. I really need new clothes anyway.” From this, it’s an easy step to also count your blessings. “Well, at least it was only my bags that got lost in Chicago and not me. I’m home for Christmas, with my family. Good thing I’m not in some random place, and I have a family to come home to. I love my family.”
Now, combine this with putting yourself in others’ shoes. When you analyze someone else’s problem, eventually you get back into your own shoes. Take a look at your own problems.
I just did this. I have a lot of problems, but they all seem so trivial. I’m really blessed to be in the situation I am in now.