If you have ever had an anxiety attack then I am sure you know what anticipatory anxiety is. Why? Well, as you were experiencing that first anxiety attack I'm sure you were overwhelmed by frightening thoughts of what COULD be happening to you.
"Is it a heart attack?"
"Am I losing my mind?"
"What if I die?"
But, you soon realized that the episode passed. And then...you were on a constant wheel of worry wondering when the next attack might strike. That would be a perfect scenario of anticipatory anxiety and how it starts.
As the term indicates you may begin to anticipate or worry about possible future events which in turn produce symptoms of anxiety.
While everyone experiences anticipatory anxiety to some degree, those of us with anxiety disorders find it very difficult to break the cycle of constant worry or obsessive thinking . It is as if you have gotten on a treadmill of thoughts, worries, and concerns and it seems almost impossible to convince yourself of reasons to stop.
How do you break the cycle???
LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS
As SOON as you realize you have gotten on the "worry-go-round" take the following steps:
1. Tell yourself that it is just anxiety, that YOU control YOUR thoughts and that your thoughts DO NOT control you!
2. Remind yourself that worrying excessively about things beyond your control does not "solve" anything.
3. If you must "anticipate" then "anticipate" the best outcome instead of the worst. Let's say you fear having another anxiety attack. Rather than assume that you are losing your mind, tell yourself that thoughts can't hurt you, that you ARE in control and you WILL be fine should another attack occur.
But what if you try the above steps
and they just don't seem to work?
Food for thought: Just as your mind had to learn to over-analyze, worry, and anticipate the worst it can also unlearn such behaviors. You can re-train your brain... How?
It has been said that feelings cannot be produced without first having a thought. If you are like me, you have developed the habit of negative circular thought patterns. Such a habit may have been formed early on in life and has continued until now. Just as you may have become an expert at assuming the worst, you also can become an expert at assuming the best.
The key is REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION!
That means, for example, that if you constantly have anticipatory anxiety about speaking in front of group and you have already assumed that you will get too nervous, draw a blank, look stupid, and ultimately faint in front of everyone.... well you have got to change that thinking. Such negative, self destructive, obsessional thinking produce in you anticipatory anxiety.
A better approach would be to imagine yourself confidently speaking in front of the group over and over again. Really imagine the feelings of satisfaction that you will feel after nicely executing your speech. Do this over and over again.
Just as you once told yourself over and over again that you would fail AND you believed it you must now tell yourself over and over again that youWILL do well. And guess what? Gradually you will begin to believe it! Trust me, it works!!
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
As it takes time to form bad thinking habits it also takes time to unlearn them and form new ones. So, be patient as you make changes in your way of thinking. Don't get discouraged. When you start to anticipate anxiety, view it not as a defeat but a challenge for you to practice the skills mentioned above. You can expect to see a gradual decrease in these symptoms and an increase in confidence and self esteem.
You CAN do this, just keep working at it!