Easing Anticipatory Anxiety
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
I recently learned that anxiety is way more common and way more normal than I ever realized. I have to credit Barry McDonagh and his book Dare for this one. (See suggested resource at bottom of page to learn more). This was a huge relief, because I, like millions of others, have lots of my own experiences with anxiety.
Anticipatory anxiety is a form of anxiety that you feel before a particular event. This could be anything from a social event to a medical procedure. Based on a couple of my own recent experiences with anticipatory anxiety, here are three ways to help ease that fear.
1. Do your research. This will depend on the type of situation you are worried about. For example, preparing for an interview might include researching the company and position you are applying for. If you are going for an MRI for the first time, you may want to watch YouTube videos of how an MRI works. Use whatever resources are available to you, and gather as much information as you need to feel more comfortable and familiar with what to expect.
2. Create a plan. Write out a list of what you will do before, during and after your event. What do you need to do to prepare? What are things you want to remember during the event and what supports (if any) do you want in place after the event? Think about how you will feel around the time of the event. What do you think will be the most challenging part for you? Thinking about these things and preparing yourself as much as you can will help you to feel more confident. Of course, unexpected things can still happen but being able to control as much as possible will help you to focus more on that instead of the uncertain aspects.
Mapping out what you want to do after the event also gives you something positive to look forward to. For example, you might feel like you need to rest afterwards, so you make sure not to schedule any other commitments for the rest of the day.
3. Reach out to a trusted friend/support person. Chances are they will want to be there for you. If asking for help or support is uncomfortable for you, think of it as allowing someone an opportunity to give you a gift they have been waiting to give. This is a vulnerable step to take, but if there is someone you trust who you could reach out to, I encourage you to give it a try.
*Bonus Step: Figure out what your (healthy) coping strategies are. Build these into your plan from step 2. This can be anything from watching a funny show to doing a jigsaw puzzle to using a breathing technique. You may have a good idea of what helps you cope, or maybe you’re just starting to learn what helps you to relax, feel grounded and be here in the moment. Experiment to find what works for you, and whatever it is, make sure it is something you can truly enjoy and feel good about.
Lastly, remember that anxiety is common and normal. You are not alone. Follow these steps or put your own personal spin on them, and you will be on your way to easing your anticipatory anxiety, making more space for ease, peace and fun.
Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
By Barry McDonagh