Sometimes called "playing the script until the end," this exercise is a handy way to take all your fears and anxieties and put them in a more realistic perspective. If you are struggling with a lot of uncertainties, anxieties, and fears about the future (as is natural in such uncertain times), then this is a good way to put your fears in perspective and give you encouragement.
For private practitioners looking to supplement your telehealth sessions or give homework to your clients, have your clients fill this table out on their own and send you the results for your review. It will give an interactive and useful activity to your client, and you can review their responses to get a better idea of whether they are engaging in rational thinking about their anxieties, or if distorted thoughts are present.
Fears and anxieties make it easy for us to engage in "distorted thoughts" that skew our views of reality. Particularly, fears of the future make us overgeneralize, thinking that we know exactly what is going to happen based on a fear, and that the result will be the worst thing in the world. Our brains do not often allow us to think of alternatives OR, even more importantly, how we will be able to deal with the outcomes if the worst comes to pass. Doing this exercise will allow you to take inventory of a) whether or not your fears are rooted in reality and b) the skills and coping tools you will have to deal with a scenario even if the worst comes true.
In the table below, there are four columns:
- "What am I worrying about?": In this field, fill out something that is worrying you, and try to be as specific as possible. For instance, you might say "I am worried about getting laid off."
- "How likely is this to happen?": You can select how likely each event is to happen from "Very Unlikely" to "Very Likely."
- "What is the worst case scenario?": This is the real root of your fear... If the situation I'm worrying about comes true, what is the absolute worst thing that can happen? It is easy for us to say "the world will end if this happens," but that's rarely the case. Be honest and realistic with yourself, but also don't sugarcoat things if it is a serious situation. Try to avoid thinking of effects years in the future, think about what the worst case scenario is in the short term. For example: "If I get laid off, I will not have enough money to pay rent at the end of the month and could be evicted."
- "How will I cope if this comes true?": Your worst case scenario has come true, now what? Chances are you are not going to just lie down and do nothing, there is always a way for you to cope. Here is your place to list out all the ways you think you'll be able to cope and work through the situation. For example: "If I'm laid off and evicted, I can still stay at one of my family members' for a month or two until I can get another position; I have a strong resume and I know I can find something if I need to."
Once you have finished filling out the first row, check it over and make sure that everything you want to say is there. Again, check to ensure you are being realistic about the worst case and how you will cope. Then, you can click, "Add your row!" to add it to the table. You will then be able to add a new scenario the same way as the first one, and you can repeat this process as many or as few times as you would like.
When you have finished the table as much as you want, tap the "Click to download" button to get a copy of your table! Keep this picture with you: save it to your phone, print it out, make it your background. Whenever your fears come back up, reference this to remind yourself that there is always a way to cope.
If you are working with a counselor who asked you to complete this, be sure to send the downloaded copy to her/him once you are done!
Okay... Is there more?
You want more? We will be coming out with more exercises and apps like this in the future! Check the "Resources" tab at the top, or scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe for updates when more are available!