5 strategies to help you cope with a nagging feeling of dread : Life Kit Worried about deadlines, errands or your holiday to-do list? Reframe your relationship with dread with these simple exercises, from drawing the things that scare you to scheduling worry time.

5 strategies to help you cope with a nagging feeling of dread

5 strategies to help you cope with a nagging feeling of dread

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Sol Cotti for NPR
Illustration of a woman hiding under her bed in an attempt to avoid facing the things she&#039;s dreading. Her pink bedspread is covered with eyes that seem to be watching her and magnifying her dread.
Sol Cotti for NPR

The list of things we dread is almost endless: the Sunday scaries, climate change, deadlines, the holidays, simple errands, you name it.

So how can we feel better when we're anticipating the worst? I'm Saleem Reshamwala, host of More Than a Feeling, a podcast on emotions from the meditation and mindfulness platform Ten Percent Happier, and we partnered with Life Kit to share five practices for managing that nagging feeling of impending doom.

We've been exploring this theme in a mini-series in Season 2 of our podcast. And we've learned that dread isn't all that bad. It turns out there are some benefits in starting an open conversation about the things that worry us. "The purpose of dread is to help prepare you," says psychologist Ali Mattu. "It's to help you think about what might happen. It's to help you take actions that you can right now."

We talked to researchers, art therapists and death doulas to find out how to dread ... better.

Rewrite your dread

We often struggle to talk about dread because it can feel so heavy. Poet and clinical psychologist Hala Alyan has a suggestion: Write down the things you're concerned about. She shares a journal prompt to help you emotionally distance from your dread.

Draw your dread

What happens when we express our dread without words? Art therapist Naomi Cohen-Thompson and meditation teacher and writer Jeff Warren explain why reframing our attitudes toward dread nonverbally can help us accept what scares us.

Find the joy in dreading ... death

Fear of death may be the ultimate type of dread we face, but clinical psychologist Rachel Menzies and death doula Alua Arthur say that facing death can be a joyful exercise. They make a compelling case for why remembering we will die – instead of trying to forget – can help us accept the inevitable.

Schedule your dread

This is how my dread works: I dread something. I try to avoid thinking about it. I fail. Before I know it, I've spent an entire day stuck in an endless loop of worry. Mattu shares some tips around this conundrum, including the benefits of carving out "worry time" to keep dread from becoming too overwhelming.

Notice your surroundings

After speaking with More Than a Feeling listeners, it became clear that one of the biggest issues they're worried about right now is the state of our planet. I spoke with therapist Patty Adams, who helped me understand how connecting to the environment can help us build emotional resilience -- so that even if we feel paralyzed by "eco-dread," as it's called, we don't stay there for too long.

You can find our miniseries The Dread Project in the More Than a Feeling podcast feed, wherever you listen.


The audio portion of this episode was produced by Jen Poyant. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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