You can feel the cloud hanging above you. You've snoozed the reminders time and time again. You can feel the growing knot in your stomach of anticipation. There is something you need to do that has your Fight-Flight-Freeze-Fawn response stuck in the Freeze gear. You are basically an anxious statue. The thing you need to be doing may not even be a big deal in the grand scheme of things but it feels impossible. You've tried the face-to-face mirror pep talk. The positive affirmation post its on your computer screen are all but invisible. The designated accountability friend has long since the "so, did you do it yet?" text. All the typical ways you deal with situational anxiety aren't helping. Try switching things up and have a mental rehearsal.
A mental rehearsal is a run through of a situation, activity or task that would cause you anxiety. The twist is that you envision the exact thing happening that would cause you panic and your practice through the uncomfortableness of the scenario. You don't cut the scenario short to either have it end on the best possible outcome and you don't get to avoid the stressful part either. The rehearsal is also not intended to catastrophize or start a never ending downward mental spiral. You are playing out exactly what is possible and how you can deal with the parts that make you uneasy.
This technique can be particularly effective for people who are mentally blocked from doing true exposure therapy methods. It can be a way to face your fears before taking the physical or emotional risk. You can be as detailed as you want. You can still conjure the real fear you'd be facing but be allowed the grace to pull out, no harm no foul and to practice various coping techniques to see which would be most fitting of the situation.
Let's say you have an interview coming up. This can be a very stressful situation, even fearful. Why not? It's a psychological anomaly; inviting someone to judge us and deem us worthy enough. Not only worth enough, but asking them to determine your entire livelihood, status, title, etc. You can craft the entire interview, right down to the color and pattern of the shirt your interviewer chose to wear. You can view it from any vantage point you want. Are you viewing things as if you are the speaker? Are you watching the interaction as scribe in the room? You can start, pause, stop and replay your responses. You are in control. Start to get the racing heart beat and sweat beads? Stuttering over your replies? Put a hold on it and pull from your mental roladex how best to deal with that kind of stress rpeonse. Would it work? Try it and see if your mental avatar can calm themselves enough to not let on too much they were rattled. If it didn't work, or was too obvious for a small sided interaction like an interview, choose an effective but subtle calming technique. Practice it like it could happen.
Mental rehearsal can be used to practice how you will handle that unwanted and usually enviable anxiety. This isn't meant to be a "practice makes perfect" outcome; it's "practice makes possible".