Living with Anticipatory Anxiety, What can we Do?

In an increasingly uncertain and unpredictable world, cases of anticipatory anxiety are constantly increasing. Only those who suffer from it know what it is to think almost every moment that something bad is going to happen, where panic attacks are common.

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Living with anticipatory anxiety is not being able to breathe because uncertainty and worry take our breath away. It is to be victims of a mind that hurries and insists on bringing us the most fatal results. Few experiences are as invalidating as being blocked by that permanent anguish, where our body and thoughts are gripped by fear.

If we could describe in a simple way what anticipatory anxiety is, we would basically say that it is that mechanism by which the mind tries to predict the future and creates a negative projection before a fact that has not yet occurred. But why do we do it? Why are we becoming that society more and more afflicted by this type of anxiety in particular?

To answer this question we must understand two very simple aspects that define us most. The first is that if there is something human beings need almost instinctively, it is to have everything under control. The second is our absolute fear of uncertainty; We do not tolerate it, we do not handle it well, it overwhelms us and frustrates us more than we think.

In this way, common realities such as facing a job interview, an exam, a medical appointment or the simple fact to ask if next month we will be able to pay all the expenses, sometimes leads us to that mental path where only fatalities grow. We anticipate the worst and that idea blocks us and turns off all our resources to face any challenge or objective.

«The worry does not eliminate the pain of tomorrow, but it eliminates the strength of today».

-Corrie ten Boom-

Living with anticipatory anxiety, when fear collapses everything

People spend a good part of our time worried. This does not pose any problem by itself as long as, yes, those concerns are handled appropriately. How? Using a level of fair and balanced anxiety, where we can put that level of alert combined, in addition, with a flexible and positive mental approach through which we can face the difficulties of day to day.

Now, achieving it is not always so easy. And it is not because our brain is ruled by instincts rather than by reason. Something like this causes, for example, that in a situation of uncertainty our imagination tends to anticipate the worst. That feeling of anguish instantly stimulates the amygdala, the brain region related to the circuit of fear, charged with ‘shooting’ a whole stream of physiological responses by releasing hormones such as cortisol.

The reason why certain people and not others end up developing anticipatory anxiety could relate precisely to this structure. Thus, in a study carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in the journal Nature, it tells us that there are brains more ‘reactive’ to uncertainty and threat. That is to say, there are people who, neurologically, tolerate this type of situation much worse and, therefore, react with high anxiety.

This is how to live with anticipatory anxiety: symptoms and characteristics

Living with anxiety is not living. Is to be paralyzed in an anteroom where the mind is determined to predict the future and whisper in turn, the terrible consequences that can occur. No matter what you have projected, no matter what you have to do today, tomorrow or five years from now, everything will go wrong.

Likewise, this sense of constant alert is accompanied by the feeling of insecurity, of sadness for feeling helpless and also of anger and anger at not knowing what to do.

The thought is obsessive, cognitive distortions abound, there where to see a clearly biased reality, a world that does not have present because we only place our gaze on a highly negative becoming.

Living with anticipatory anxiety is living with fear. This supposes, therefore, to experience the most diverse physical symptoms, from tremors, sweating, stomach pain, tachycardia … This psychological condition ends up very often resulting in panic attacks.

How to reduce our anticipatory anxiety to live better?

Horacio, the great Latin poet, said that adversity has the gift of awakening talents that in prosperity would have remained asleep. Our reality and this world in which we find ourselves is often marked by unforeseen changes, by pressures, by things that are beyond our control and by small and great adversities that we are forced to face.

Now, nobody has taught us how to do all these things. And even our brain does not seem to be prepared to assume so much uncertainty. Being afraid is therefore normal. But letting fear dominate us completely is not. The key to not living with anticipatory anxiety and to gain in well-being implies reflecting on these aspects:

  • The emotion felt does not have to define your behavior. Feeling fear and anguish about something is completely normal. Admit those emotions, normalize them, but do not allow them to define your behavior by mastering your thoughts.
  • Who is in control of your thoughts is you. So do not let your mind run too long through those black holes where the fear that paralyzes dwells. Oxygenate your mind, relax the thought by focusing on the outside to relax, to find the balance in the present moment. What matters is now, tomorrow has not happened yet.
  • Practice spontaneity, break patterns. Fear and negative thoughts feed on us when we sit still, when routine oxidizes us and the brain loses motivation to derive ruminant and obsessive thinking. Move, do not think, just feel, put your body in motion with some sport, relax your mind with Mindfulness and animate your heart connecting with new plans and new faces.

Mindfulness in depression

To conclude, we can all suffer at some point anticipatory anxiety. Many of the contexts in which we habitually reside can lead to the demon of fear trapping us. Falling into these states does not make us weaker, it actually gives us an opportunity to become stronger people. In minds that learn to apply new resources and better skills to survive effectively and happily.