Anticipatory anxiety is the worry that creeps in when there are uncertainties about the future. We often become focused on the things we can’t predict or even make sense of. In that space, our minds begin to entertain the negative possibilities and “what ifs”.
This type of anxiety can be seen in our everyday lives and in larger community concerns. General worry is something we all experience. However, Anticipatory anxiety can put a strain on our relationships and responsibilities. At times this type of anxiety can cause us to avoid the experiences we fear may have a negative outcome.
It is normal to begin feeling anticipatory anxiety as we enter the holiday season and prepare to start a new year. There are many unknowns as it relates to family and our world. Try utilizing some of the tools listed below to manage.
Take action against Anticipatory Anxiety
Consider your thoughts and emotions
The physical symptoms of anxiety may be the most noticeable in the moment. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the inhale and exhale. Then, take a second to reflect on what you’re thinking about. The pictures and stories creep in when anxiety shows up.
Challenge anxious thoughts
Anticipatory anxiety often has us wondering about the worst-case scenarios in each situation. It may be helpful to consider if these thoughts are truly realistic. This will allow you to recognize when you’re catastrophizing the unknown. Challenging these thoughts provides a space to make peace with the unknown and refocus on the present.
Anticipatory anxiety can sometimes cause us to avoid things that are important to us. Naturally, we want to avoid discomfort and fear. However, neglecting things that are important often causes more distress. Look for small ways you can take action as appropriate. If you are concerned about your community, then take the time to volunteer. If you are worried about a loved one, then be available to connect with them.
Sometimes it can be challenging to work through your anxious thoughts right away. It can be helpful to utilize a healthy distraction to shift your focus for a bit. We can always return to those thoughts and work through them. Calling a trusted friend, taking a walk, listening to your favorite music are all healthy ways to shift your focus until you’re ready to work through the thought.
These are only a few things that may help with your anticipatory anxiety. Remember to be gentle with yourself during this time. As always, talking to a professional is another option for added support as you learn to manage this type of anxiety.
About Whitney Miklos:
Whitney is a Supervisee in Clinical Social Work and provides teletherapy to residents of Virginia. She graduated from Bridgewater College with a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Social Work. She then received her Master’s in Social Work from Tulane University. Throughout her time at Tulane, she worked with both undergraduate and graduate students at Loyola University New Orleans Campus to provide individual therapy, crisis intervention, and other social work services.
Upon graduation, Whitney has continued to provide individual therapy to young adults and adolescents in various settings. She has also had the opportunity to provide consultation to educators seeking to become more trauma-informed in the classroom. Whitney has also provided support services to caregivers. Whitney honors the unique needs of each individual and believes it is important to tailor treatment accordingly.