Use Socratic Questioning to Undermine Fear and Anxiety

My grandmother always said, “90% of the things we worry about never happen.”

We waste energy and time worrying. It causes anxiety and a loss of productivity.  We need to learn to change our thinking!

When Grandma was sharing her wisdom, she would often follow it with a question: “How much will this matter in seven years?”

That sentence is what is understood now as a “coping statement.”

Here are a few more:

  • “I have done what I can do. Now it’s out of my hands.”
  • “One day at a time”
  • “Not my problem”
  • “Wait and see”
  • “Whatever happens, I can cope.”
  • “It’s a pain, but not a disaster”
  • “I can recover from this.”

And one more:

  • “Relax!”

Relaxing is harder than one might think. I think one of the best coping methods is to DO SOMETHING.

When I’m anxious, I throw myself into a project – preferably one that takes concentration – and if it is also physical, even better.  Cleaning the closet, mowing the lawn, and grocery shopping are good coping methods.

If you are feeling sorry for yourself, helping someone else will also help you.  There is almost always someone worse off than you are. Help them and you will feel good about what you are accomplishing and better about your own situation.

When we are very anxious, we tend to dwell on worse-case scenarios.  That is a good time to go through what is called Socratic Questioning. This process helps you evaluate the situation that is causing you to be upset, and to calm yourself.

Describe the situation you have been worrying about – perhaps put it in writing.

What specifically do you fear might happen?

The Socratic Questioning checklist:

  • Rate the likelihood that this will happen (from 0% to 100%)
  • What evidence supports what you fear might happen?
  • What evidence supports what you fear will not happen?
  • If it DID happen, what actions could you take?
  • Realistically, what is the worst thing that could happen?
  • What is the best thing that can happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • Are there any useful actions you can take now?
  • What would you tell a friend who was in your situation?
  • Realistically, rerate the likelihood that your fears will be realized?

It’s human nature to avoid the things we are anxious about.  But that actually strengthens those fears after time.

The best thing to do, when you realize that you are worrying about something you have little control over is to confront your fears.  Ask yourself the above questions, and answer them honestly. Concentrate on the positive aspects and use steps to actively overcome the issues if you can – or substitute them with action if you find you are dwelling things you have little chance of changing.

Just remember: avoid avoidance. Facing things brings them down to size.