When I was struggling with anxiety, I used to spend so much time worrying about the future... it might as well have been my full-time job! Almost immediately after I'd make any plans I would start to worry. I'd ask myself things like... "What will happen if I do this? Or if I go there? Will everything be okay? Will I have a panic attack? Will I be able to handle it? Will I embarrass myself? Will I be able to get home quickly enough?" If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, this probably sounds familiar!
But I want you to know that dealing with anticipatory anxiety right now doesn't mean you'll struggle with these thoughts and fears forever. And that's exactly why I wanted to talk about this topic! In episode 86 of the podcast, I share eight tips and mindset shifts that will put you on the path toward healing your relationship with anticipatory anxiety. So let's dive into the tips!
8 Tips For Working Through Anticipatory Anxiety
1. Having Some Anxiety About The Future Is Natural
It's important to remind yourself that you're allowed to feel anxious sometimes. It's actually very natural that you have anxiety about certain things. Yes, there might be disordered anxiety there too, but allowing yourself to have anxiety (without it meaning anything) will be really helpful. Rather than beating yourself up and convincing yourself that you *can't* feel anxious, practice giving yourself grace and allowing yourself to have anxiety about the future sometimes!
2. Allow The Uncomfortable Thoughts To Be There
Allow the feelings and the emotions that come along with your thoughts to be there, without suppressing, fighting, or ignoring them. We might think that trying to suppress these thoughts and feelings will make them simply stay on the sidelines, but in reality, we are only increasing their presence in our lives. So I really want you to practice allowing all of your thoughts and feelings, and making space for them!
3. Acknowledge That You're Making A Conscious Decision To Worry
With anticipatory anxiety, I think so many of us forget that we are making the choice to jump down rabbit holes, the train of what-ifs, and making the decision to try and solve the worry. But when we do this, we only bring our awareness to the worry and out of the present. One of my favorite ways to challenge the worry is by simply asking yourself "What was I doing before I started worrying?" and then go back to doing that! In the same way that we make a conscious decision to worry, we can also make a conscious decision to let the fears be there while continuing on with the things we want to do!
4. Put Your Focus On The Things That You Can Control
And when I say the things you can control... I want to make it clear that I'm talking about the present! The stories you tell yourself, along with your response to thoughts, feelings, and the actions you choose to take are so important. And right now, all of these things are in your control! For example, instead of letting your brain continue to tell you that all of the worst-case scenarios are going to happen, you can choose to just take action, and do something within your control!
When we put our energy into things that we have control of, instead of feeding into uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, it allows us to get present. It'll allow you to gain that peace and freedom that you're looking for! So practice choosing to put your focus on the things that you have control over, rather than the things that you don't.
5. Recognize That Worrying Isn't Problem-Solving
We tend to think "If I keep worrying, I'm going to solve this, come up with a solution, or find an answer". Instead, when you notice that you're worrying, ask yourself if what you're worrying about is actually solvable. And if it isn't, it is so important to practice leaning into the uncertainty that's there. When I started to really practice letting the uncertainty be there and not trying to do anything about it, I gained so much freedom from my fears.
6. Practice Accepting That Uncertainties Will Always Be Present
We can try to make things certain...but it only ends up making us feel more anxious. And you really have to recognize that just because there are uncertainties present, doesn't mean that bad things will happen. We often think that if we aren't certain about the future, we aren't fully safe. But it doesn't mean that! I want you to remember all of the times when you took healthy action, even when anticipatory anxiety was there. And did the stories that anticipatory anxiety told you ever come true? Probably not! Remember, discomfort leads to healing and growth!
7. Acknowledge That You Can't Live In The Future
...And you can't control the future, either! We always want to control things with anxiety disorders, right? We feel like if we can control it, it means we will be okay. But this is just one of those lies that anxiety tells us! Anytime you try to live in the future and try to control it, you'll experience more anxiety and tension. So I want you to practice allowing yourself to be present, slowing down, and being more intentional. Rather than choosing to worry and be focused on the future, you have to allow yourself to just be.
8. Be Vulnerable With Your Feelings
Learning to be vulnerable was extremely helpful for me. Sharing your worries and feelings with someone isn't an instant fix for anxiety, but it certainly helps you process what you're going through. Being vulnerable gave me the freedom to not continue to hold on to these worries the way I once did. And oftentimes, the person on the other end could relate to my worries, which made me feel much less alone! As I always say, vulnerability fights fear, and it is such a huge tool in anxiety recovery. And I guarantee you that you're not alone in any of the worries that you might have.
Anticipatory anxiety is an entire lesson in my program, Panic to Peace. In the program, I teach you the simple steps you can take to lean into uncertainty, and how you can find peace and joy in that uncertainty! We'll talk about how to let go of worry and all of the unhelpful behaviors that might leave you feeling stuck in the anxiety recovery process. And if you want more help overcoming anticipatory anxiety, this program will be perfect for you! Panic to Peace will be opening again in September, so make sure to get on the waitlist to be notified when the doors are open!
Until next time, friend, keep taking healthy action!