Teaching My Daughter The Worst-Case-Scenario Game.

There are many coping strategies with anxiety. One of the simplest ideas is to look at the thing causing you anxiety and see if there’s anything right now you can do about it, and then do it. If there’s not anything you can do, you try to recognize that and let go.

That’s the first basic approach, and it’s one I’ve taught Nikki.

But it’s really not a “cure-all” by any means. Those of us with anxiety disorders know that just saying, Welp, nothing I can do so I guess I won’t worry… doesn’t do anything at all 99% of the time. I mean, I stress out some days about the driving I might have to do in cities I might travel to in the future. Obviously there’s nothing I can do about those things yet still…NIGHTMARE INDUCING.

So I was working with Nikki last night using a “game” my therapist taught me. The Worst-Case-Scenario Game. Where you literally talk out the Worst Thing that could happen and just keep following it through and then dissect each of those moments to see if you can remove the fear from them. You have to talk it out, you can’t just think about it because it still sounds scary in your head. But if you say it out loud, it often sounds ridiculous: I’ll ask my husband to drive while we’re in that city and he says, “No!” I mean, my husband never says, “No!” when I ask him to drive. HE WANTS TO DRIVE. Or how about: There are no Taxis to drive me. What? NO TAXIS? THERE ARE ALWAYS UBERS. Or LYFTS. Or SOMETHING.

So – say it out loud so you can talk through the thing you fear.

Now, back to my daughter. Nikki is about 5 days away from the final stage of an application process to get herself into a magnet school here in Huntsville that she’s been wanting to attend since she first learned about it last year.

Let me make this clear: THIS IS ALL HER.

This is an academic program and so there are a lot of parents that are pushing their kids to apply, but not us. It’s going to really complicate our lives if she gets in and we’re a bit worried about how it will affect her anxiety so we’ve just let her drive this car. And we’re on the home stretch and next Tuesday she has to go to the school board office to write an essay on-sight as the final step and she is FREAKING THE EFF OUT.

So last night we went through the Worst-Case Scenario.

Nikki, what’s the WORST thing that can happen?
I don’t get into the school.
Okay, so then what happens?
I go to my regular middle school.
Yeah, and what’s that like?
Well…my friends go there. And I’ll have dances and stuff.
Okay, so if you totally bomb this essay and don’t get into that school, then it won’t really be that bad, will it?

Not all anxiety can be helped by the Worst-Case-Scenario Game, but I knew this one would because I knew that going to this “new” school comes with it’s own challenges. And not going to the “regular” school means missing out on a lot of “regular” things so I knew that in this case – the Worse Case was not actually that bad.

Once we had the Worst-Case analyzed and realized it wasn’t too big of a deal, we talked a bit about the essay. How she needs to take her time, but keep her eye on the clock. How she needs to just breathe and stay focused because we all know anxiety can make you brain jump around and that is NOT ideal when it comes to writing. We talked about writing from your heart (this seems to be a “personal” type essay) and how if you are sincere and true in your voice, that’s the best you can do.

She’s still super-stressed. I’m not sure the timeline of when we’ll find out if she’s been accepted after this essay, but I really hope it’s soon. We’re really lucky our school system has started this program (if she gets in, she’ll be the second class to go through it) and we’d love to take advantage of it. BUT! If she doesn’t get in, it will be her first major life disappointment AND I AM NOT GOOD AT HELPING MY KIDS THROUGH THOSE. All I can usually do is offer to cry with them indefinitely and then eat all the ice cream.

Anyway – no real point to this other than kinda walking you guys through how A Mom With An Anxiety Disorder Helps Her Daughter With An Anxiety Disorder.

It’s a circus, people.

7 thoughts on “Teaching My Daughter The Worst-Case-Scenario Game.

  1. Fraulein N says:

    As another anxiety sufferer, it might help her to do a dry run. Tell her you’re going to do it, say, the next day so she can get her head ready. Set up a writing area for her and try to replicate the testing conditions (as much as possible!). Then give her a “personal” kind of question to write about and set the clock.

    Once you’ve done something at least once, that removes a lot of the fear from it. And on the off chance she bombs or something, you guys can talk afterwards about what she can do (check the clock more, think a bit BEFORE she starts writing, etc.) to make sure it doesn’t happen during the real test. Wish her luck for me!

    • Nancy R says:

      I was going to suggest this too! I think it helps to have a mental picture of how things may go – stressing, of course, that it will not go EXACTLY and you role-play it…unless you all are mind readers. 🙂

      And after she’s done the real deal – go out and celebrate her doing her best.

  2. heidi says:

    I would not survive without the Worst Case Scenario game. I’ve tried to teach it to my children also. We are not real anxiety sufferers but I think everyone has those days. It really does work wonders. Good luck to Nikki!

  3. Lucy McConville says:

    Couldn’t have been more perfect timing for me to read this…so, thank you for being MY mom and walking ME through it! Haha.

    I actually already knew this “game” from my own therapy. And I WAS doing it this morning when I woke up with a start at 5:00am, realizing my house is full of germs and I need to CLEAN before bringing my mom home from the hospital (heart surgery) to take care of her here! I have to scrub the bathroom with bleach, I have to wash the bedding in hot, etc. How do I do all of that AND spend the day in the hospital AND go to her her house and get her stuff???

    So, I tried the “what’s the worst that could happen?” I guess it is that she gets some germ at my house and dies. Sigh. Haha. But, seriously, would that happen? I can get her here and put her on the couch with some already-clean-in-the-cupboard blankets for the couple hours it takes to wash my bedding so I can put her in my bed. It will all be ok.

    Thanks for the solidarity! Good luck to Nikki!

  4. Jess says:

    Thank you for this. As an anxiety sufferer (who is just starting to realize it’s a real problem) this will be totally helpful. Lately I’ve been wondering what it must be like to be my husband… most of the time he truly lives in the moment. Sure he has worries and stress, but most of the time he’s just… existing? Not obsessing over something silly he might have said the day before, or how he’s going to get to work the next morning.

    I’ll be walking from the train station after work and focused on an intersection I need to cross to get home. As I walk, I think about the different scenarios that can occur, trying to time it with the traffic light, just so. It’s truly no big deal, but it’s busy and cars seem annoyed when they have to stop and wait for me to cross. Why do I do this?? I’m aware it’s a waste of my time and energy, but still do it. Just one small example of life in the mind of an anxious person:)

    Best of luck to Nikki with her essay!

  5. Grace says:

    Great idea above on practice!

    I learned this in my first Honors Psyc class. We had only 7 students and went through a lot in depth. He called it “awfulizing.” Because “It would be so awful if X happened” then go through the scenarios. He told us in the REALLY worst case you would die, and you’d be dead, so you wouldn’t care, so it’s all OK.

  6. Julie says:

    I know you may get bombarded with different suggestions but have you ever heard of EFT? Tapping? I am just doing more of it and it is changing my life. Look up Nick Ortner.
    I’m finding it fascinating.
    and REALLY helpful!! I sat in the dentist chair for two hours last Monday and was super calm. It was a miracle.

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