Your question: Why do I feel scared about my future?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this article, I will explain why people experience an intense and recurrent fear associated with their future, explaining the origin of these anxious thoughts that burst with daily responsibilities and generate discomfort, as well as strategies to cope with fear.

The concept of time has been a source of philosophical reflection for mankind since ancient times. People are constantly concerned about the past and the future. This is natural, and is related because it generates questions and fears related to your own well-being and performance. Generally, fear of the future is linked to the concern of what your life will be like in a few years, questioning whether you will have satisfaction, happiness or security.

This has a name: anticipatory anxiety (1). We all think and worry about your future, but anticipatory anxiety is a problem because it torments people with great intensity and frequency, generating fear for their future in everyday situations that harm their performance, such as work or academics. Anticipatory anxiety is annoying, because it not only remains in thoughts, but sometimes expresses itself in physical symptoms. There are ways to control it, so that you can reflect and think about your future in a healthier and less problematic way.

Where does your fear of the future come from?

Thinking about the future causes a general fear because you associate the future with the unknown and unpredictable. For the most part, life is uncontrollable and there is no way to know with total guarantee what your life will be like in a year or ten. So this lack of control, your fear and anxiety fills it with anxious and overwhelming thoughts. 

Fear of the future is related to anxiety in general. Anxiety causes dysfunctional thoughts in you that can trigger depression(2). Anxiety about the future torments you because it presents you with catastrophic scenarios in the face of the uncertainty of what tomorrow will be like. You do not live in the present because you feel you must prepare for the uncertainty of the future. Anxiety or fear for the future keeps you constantly overwhelmed, because it has its origin in illogical thoughts that you feel as real.

What does it feel like to be afraid of the future?

Having constant fear for the future or anticipatory anxiety is characterized by:

  • Physical symptoms such as headache or stomach ache.
  • Dizziness and tiredness when thinking about the future.
  • Catastrophic scenarios about the future. For example, you imagine yourself in bankruptcy or living a tragic experience such as an accident or family loss.
  • Believing that you must meet certain standards for the future. For example, having a job that generates a lot of money, a family and general success by reaching a specific age.

Let tomorrow come: How can you stop being afraid of the future?

Working through fear and anxiety in general is complicated but not impossible. When it comes to anticipatory anxiety, there are strategies you can implement to learn to live in and enjoy the present, which you sometimes neglect by imagining so many fictitious scenarios about the future, and at the same time, plan for tomorrow without doing so much emotional damage.

Question your thoughts

In my experience in cognitive behavioral therapy I have noticed that most people’s emotional problems are related to the way they think. Once harmful and burdensome thoughts are questioned or broken down, the emotional state gradually improves. This is done through answering the questions that anxiety asks in your mind. 

When they are related to the future, you may think things like what if I don’t get a good job? That is when you should look for a logical answer to that thought, answering yourself, in that case “if I don’t get a job I will look harder, I will ask for help from my loved ones and I will try to look for other ways”. This should be done over and over again with all stressful ideas about the future, the answers will almost always end up related to “everything I know is about the present, the future is uncertain, and if such a situation arises, I will face it in due time because I am capable”.


Relaxation and breathing techniques allow you to regulate your body, emotions and thoughts in periods of fear and deep anxiety. One of the most widely implemented is the Jacobson relaxation technique. This technique is done lying down, in a quiet environment and with your eyes closed. It consists in that from your feet to your head, you focus your attention on a part of your body, making slow movements, tensing and releasing the tension.

For example in your feet, you make slow circular movements, tense them and then release the tension. Then you do the same with your legs, and so on until you reach your head. It will take as long as you feel necessary, but it lasts approximately 10 to 20 minutes. It is a slow but effective exercise, and with time you will learn to control it perfectly and you will notice an improvement in the control of anxiety (3).

Worry in moderation

You may never stop worrying about your future because to some extent it is necessary. It is useful that you have long term plans that point your life to a path to follow. So, you can continue to think, plan and worry about the future but in moderation. You can set a time of the day to think about things you want to do in the future or imagine positive plans that you are going to build for the long term.

In my experience…

The idea is that thinking about the future does not rob you of the present, as it is the only real time we have. I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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