Be Prepared for Hypothetical Horrific Things by Always Thinking About Them

by Liz Colville

One definition of ‘stress’ might be “to imagine worst-case scenarios flung at you hourly until the day you die, possibly of one of them, but more likely of your imagination itself,” which is something we all do (you don’t? I hate you, please get off this site), but which we know to be bad for us. Until now. Luckily many someones are now in agreement that stressing is also a kind of preparation, because you know, those things will happen, and you have to be ready.

Art Markman, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Texas, believes that mental preparation (“stress,” it’s called, apparently) can help people in stressful situations, ‘stressful’ being derived from the word ‘stress,’ so I guess that makes sense. The alternate response, presumably, would be panic and/or shock. Markman, interviewed by Discovery News about his theory, suggests we don’t do this enough. “Thinking about stressful situations can create stress, so we don’t like to talk about them until we’re faced with them,” he says.

But if you do spend your life thinking of as many hypothetical nightmares as you can and preparing for all of them, you’re in luck, and are more highly evolved than the rest of humanity. Discovery says many experts believe “imagining or simulating stressful scenarios can actually give you the mental confidence and agility to confront and survive them.” Another professor of psychology, Sian Beilock, says the brain seems to actually use a combination of “practice and positive reinforcement” when in stressful situations. So like, “You got this — you’ve been thinking about an air conditioner falling out a window onto your head for years!”

The article goes on to provide suggestions on how to prepare for hostage situations. It also reminds us that the media is helping us to prepare for one, or any number of other such quagmires, so we don’t have to go this alone: crime rates are falling, but media coverage of crime is going up, up, up. So kind of the media.