Facing the Future with Anticipatory Anxiety and Change
Anticipatory anxiety is more severe than stressing out about a current situation. Clinical psychologist Sally Winston and master clinician Martin Seif define anticipatory anxiety as a fear of failure and other bad things that might happen in the future. As a result of anticipatory anxiety, many people avoid important tasks and new things.1 To learn about my experience with anticipatory anxiety and change and how I managed it, continue reading this post.
My Past Experience with Anticipatory Anxiety and Change
I have struggled with anticipatory anxiety and worrying about change for a long time. For instance, before middle school started, I dreaded the thought of failing my classes and being bullied. I imagined myself being slammed into a locker every day. This catastrophic thinking interrupted my ability to sleep. I wanted to avoid going to middle school altogether.
When I talked to my dad about my fears, he always told me not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. He said that they wouldn't even happen. But in my mind, the possibilities seemed real and valid.
Also, during my first semester of college, I called my mom every due to anticipatory anxiety and the recent change. My biggest fear was getting sexually assaulted on campus. I thought that not only would it be frightening and painful, it would lead to me getting pregnant. Then, I would have to drop out of school, and I wouldn’t get my degree. Sometimes, I dreaded leaving my dorm at night. This fear didn’t last more than a few months, but it was terrible when it happened.
After college, I worked a part-time job at a grocery store. At one point, I was sexually harassed by a coworker. Reporting him to the store manager did not stop my coworker’s behavior. I dreaded going back to work after that. I then imagined myself being abused by other people for the rest of my life. After a few weeks, I checked into an outpatient program for anxiety. It helped me overcome my fear of harassment.
Coping Methods for Anticipatory Anxiety and Change
Over the years, I have learned how to deal with anticipatory anxiety and change in healthy ways. Throughout my childhood, my father’s daily assurance comforted me when I predicted the worst-case scenarios about school. Talking to people from my support network provided me with a sense of safety. I eventually started dating again. Therapy techniques like disputing negative thoughts and writing about my successes gave me more hope for the future. Finally, writing uplifting stories gave me a nice distraction from rumination.
Nowadays, I still struggle with change and anticipatory anxiety, especially at work. Working in retail is overwhelming on busy days. Even though it isn’t even November yet, I fear having anxiety attacks during the chaotic holiday season. But to help reduce my anxiety, I remind myself that I have worked retail during the holidays before. Everything turned out okay. During my lunch breaks, I color and listen to positive music. On my days off, I write, hang out with friends, and talk to my therapist. While my anticipatory anxiety still exists, it is much more manageable than it was in the past.
Have you experienced anticipatory anxiety because of change? If so, what are some ways you have learned to manage it?
- Anticipatory anxiety: bleeding before you are cut. (n.d.-c). Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/anticipatory-anxiety-bleeding-you-are-cut
Lueck, M. (2023, October 30). Facing the Future with Anticipatory Anxiety and Change, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/toughtimes/2023/10/facing-the-future-with-anticipatory-anxiety-and-change