Projecting ahead in time

Stress and anxiety doesn’t last forever. It will eventually pass. This exercise helps bring that truth home.

Short version

If you feel stressed or anxious, try visualising a time in the future when the problem has passed and you’re in a happier place. This can help you realise that, whatever you’re going through, it will eventually pass.


  • Potentially ease/reduction in unpleasant emotions
  • May helps you to cope with stress

How to do it

  1. Whatever you’re experiencing now, think about a time in the future when you’ll be in a better place emotionally, maybe doing better things.
  2. Start with a short time period if possible, maybe a few hours, a day, a week in the future.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in that moment as vividly as you can.
  4. Extend the time, maybe go a month ahead this time, and repeat.
  5. If you wish, you can keep moving forward in time, and imagining new events.


Use as and when needed.

Why it works

This technique was recommended by psychologist Arnold Lazarus in the 1970s.

When we’re in the midst of anxiety or stress, it can take over our whole consciousness. It becomes our whole world, and we can see nothing but this beast of an issue that’s infront of us.

However, thinking about it, you’ve been through anxiety-provoking and stressful experiences in the past, haven’t you? And you got through them OK, didn’t you?

The purpose of this exercise is to help bring that realisation to you – whatever is going on right now, it won’t last forever. It will pass. And there will be a time in the future when you’re content and relaxed.

For example, say you have a job interview or an important presentation today, and you’re nervous about it. You could think ahead to a few hours after the interview, maybe you’ve caught up with a friend, maybe you’re relaxing with a coffee somewhere, maybe you’re sitting in the park listening to a favourite song.

At that point, the interview is over and done with, and the weight of it is off your shoulders. That time will come – the present stress can not last forever.

Knowing that our current troubles won’t last forever can sometimes help weaken their impact on us a bit.

If, when you do get to that point in the future you find you’re still stressed (maybe the interview didn’t go as well as you wanted, and you’re ruminating on it), you could simply project ahead in time once again – or use another technique for dealing with difficult emotions, such as pondering what problem you have right now.