Taking Action Tuesday: Worst Case Scenario

By Katie, 5:14 am

A few years ago, I was feeling incredibly anxious about an upcoming dentist appointment. I had brought the turmoil on myself; it had been five years since I’d been to the dentist. I do not recommend this.

In the week leading up to the appointment, I felt a sense of panic every time I thought about it. That panicky feeling then led to a desire to overeat, as if overloading on cookies and cake could somehow save my molars from impending doom.

What’s the very worst that can happen? I asked myself. What am I really afraid of? Lots of cavities to get filled, maybe even a root canal. A feeling of embarrassment and shame in front of the dentist. An inconvenient and very uncomfortable follow-up appointment. And an exorbitant bill that my graduate student salary definitely wouldn’t be able to cover.

So I went there. In my mind, I imagined that all of those fears came true to the greatest extent possible. My mouth was overflowing with cavities, and at least one tooth needed a root canal. The dentist told me I was the most irresponsible patient he’d ever seen, and because of that he was refusing to give me Novocaine (oh, the horror!) and gave me a list of upcoming emergency dentist appointments. Oh, and I was holding a bill in my hand for thousands of dollars I didn’t have.

In the few moments I allowed myself to picture this scenario, I felt awful. Downright awful. I saw my life crumbling before me, all because of a little lapse in my dental hygiene. But then I got down to business. How would I handle this if it really happened?

Well, I’d just have to make time in my schedule for the fillings and root canal, and brace myself for the necessary pain and discomfort. I’d have to re-crunch the numbers on my budget and spend hours on the phone with the insurance company in order to create a manageable payment plan. Oh, and since I’ve learned more at OxfordDentalIdahoFalls.com about the way to take care about my teeth, I’d now need to find a new dentist. It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but it was doable.

While uncomfortable in the moment, imagining the worst case scenario helped the urge to overeat subside because I realized that, no matter what, I would be ok. I didn’t need food to help me because I would be fine. I would figure it out. And, honestly, what were the chances the worst case scenario would come true?

It didn’t come true. I made it to my appointment without bingeing beforehand, and left with a follow-up appointment to fill my two cavities…Novocaine included.

Taking Action Tuesday is a series featuring excerpts from my e-book Taking Action: 30 Specific Strategies for Overcoming Emotional Eating.

Are you currently worrying about something? What’s the worst case scenario that could happen? Do you think this is a useful tool for managing those anxieties?

14 Responses to “Taking Action Tuesday: Worst Case Scenario”

  1. Emily says:

    I do the same thing – so many things have the power to send me down the spiral of anxious fretting. Sometimes taking a breath and analyzing the situation – as you did above – helps. Sometimes, though, the fear is too great for me to access the rational side of my brain and that’s when I eat. I moved to a new town and started a new job 5 mos ago, and there have been many times where, for a moment, I truly did believe all the scary things I was imagining were actually going to happen.

    Thanks for this post Katie – it rang more than a few bells for me!

    • Katie says:

      I can commiserate, Emily…sometimes being rational simply feels impossible! In those moments the best I can do is completely step away from my thoughts on the situation, which again is easier said than done!

    • bubu says:

      Great post Katie!
      Re Emily’s comment about the overwhelming emotion – I think I also read in Katie’s book the statistic that most emotions, fully felt, last just 6 minutes. I find that tidbit of knowledge very helpful when I’m racked with that kind of anxiety or fear. If I can ride out the wave of this emotion for 6 minutes, it will get better. And I think it’s true – that kind of heart-racing, temples throbbing anxiety is awful but short-lived.

      • Katie says:

        YES! I did write that in the e-book, and I too find it incredibly helpful. I tell myself that if I can just get through that first six minutes, it will get easier.

        • Emily says:

          That’s good to know – I can last thru 6 minutes. Thanks!

  2. Simply Life says:

    Great advice! Glad to hear the visit wasn’t too bad! :)

  3. Alexis says:

    I used to do that but from experience I know that nothing really, really good or really, really bad happens that often. It’s almost always somewhere in the middle. You’re pretty unlikely to have to have all your teeth pulled out but just as unlikely to not have a cavity or two. It’s highly unlikely I need a new car but the sound is unlikely to be a twig stuck in the wheel well. A singer is an overnight sensation with 10 years of struggling to get there.

  4. peacebeme says:

    This will sound stupid, but I have been worrying for DAYS about my upcoming trip this weekend. I get nervous traveling for one, but we are bringing my puppy on the airplane and I can’t stop stressing out about it! I am so worried he will cry the whole time or be traumatized.

    I think that when I think of the worst scenario possible, it helps sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, thinking about worst-case scenario is making me more nervous!

    I think just going with affirmations about how you can handle it in the moment either way does help though!

    • Katie says:

      Eek! If it’s making you more nervous, then just forget everything I wrote here – haha!

  5. Im going to the dentist Thursday for the first time in 2 years and I am super nervous so thanks for settling me down:)

  6. Sarah says:

    Isn’t it amazing how a simple event or action can completely overtake all of our sensibilities?! I’ve definitely been guilty of that (maybe because of my overactive imagination) but I’ve fortunately gotten most of my panic leading to a binge under control. My biggest anxiety/panic inducer now is thinking about how I won’t binge. The nights I have the worst binges are the nights where I think that I will not binge for hours. It drives me crazy because at some point after hours of anxiety I end up giving into the binge exactly the opposite of what I said I wouldn’t do. Does anyone else experience that?

    • Katie says:

      Sarah, do you mean that thinking about not bingeing so much eventually leads you to binge? I’ve experieced that. Like concentrating so hard on NOT doing something actually pushes me to do it.

      • Sarah says:

        Yes that is exactly what happens! It drives me crazy to the point where I can’t fall asleep or even distract myself so I end up bingeing to stop the anxiety. Do you have any tips on how you responded to that thought process?

        • Katie says:

          Honestly, in those moments distraction was the name of the game. I purposefully tried to fill my time with engaging activities, because I knew that a long span of mindless time would be too difficult for me.

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