Anticipatory Anxiety

Worried brunette woman wearing pink pants with finger in mouth

Worrying About The Future

Anticipatory anxiety is a symptom commonly found in a number of anxiety related conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD); however, you may have anticipatory anxiety and not be suffering from GAD. Anticipatory anxiety is when you are experiencing increased levels of anxiety by thinking about an event or situation in the future.

The experience is not that unpleasant that it interrupts your day like a panic attack would, but it can be stressful and bothersome in the long-run. For instance, you may be starting a new job in a couple of months or flying overseas for a nicely earned vacation. Anticipatory anxiety is when you are constantly worrying about these future events, even though there is no particularly good reason to be worried.

It usually occurs every day, but it doesn’t have to. In general, the anxious thoughts are replays of scenarios in regards to the future events: “What if I won’t be good enough for the job? Everyone will laugh!”, “What if the plane will crash and I will die? My family will suffer forever!” The anxious thoughts have you thinking of different scenarios that may play out in the future.

They generally make you worry about future events; these worries may last a few minutes at a time or longer. The way to deal with anticipatory anxiety is to tell yourself to stop worrying about what tomorrow will bring, and to focus on how you can better yourself today. It’s all about controlling your thoughts: instead of dwelling on the anxious ones and making them stronger, just ignore them when they do come into your mind.

Ignoring anxious thoughts is not that hard, unless you are suffering from a panic attack, but it takes practice! In the case of anticipatory anxiety, ignoring these thoughts is about making a change in your personality: no longer worrying about what will happen tomorrow. If you can adopt this change in mindset, you will feel much better about your future job, flight overseas or whatever it is that is coming your way in the future.

Not worrying about tomorrow is not the same as not planning for the future. You still want to visualize your future goals and set out to accomplish them, but you don’t want to worry about the process or the results. The process will be dealt with when the time arrives, and the results will be determined when the process will come to an end.

In the meantime, focus on bettering yourself today. Take a few deep breaths while you perform mindfulness, and soak in everything there is about the present moment; exhale away your anticipatory anxiety.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)