How to cope with your anxiety about the future?
Whether your time at University is coming to an end, you're preparing to transition into a new role at work, or you've reached a crossroads that will change the trajectory of your life, feeling fearful of what is to come, is something we can all relate to.
In fact, for many of us, try as we may, to quiet our anxieties about the future, fear of the unknown is like a heavy block that obscures our path forward.
Though it is quite normal to experience fear of the future, if these fears become crippling in nature, hindering your ability to perform day-to-day tasks, it may become necessary for you to learn how to cope.
What Is Anticipatory Anxiety?
If you've ever found yourself feeling extremely fearful about a future event, so much so that you begin to imagine the worst possible outcomes, then chances are you've suffered from anticipatory anxiety.
Simply put, anticipatory anxiety is what occurs when we imagine the result of a particular situation, with usually a negative outcome, which in turn causes us great stress, fear and anxiety.
What does Anticipatory Anxiety look like?
Like any disorder, anticipatory anxiety will affect different people in different ways. However, the most common signs and symptoms include:
1. Imagining the worst possible outcomes
People who suffer from anticipatory anxiety will often find themselves thinking about whether their worst nightmare will come to fruition.
For example, a guy who loves his girlfriend may imagine finding out she cheated on him.
2. Praying for the best but expecting the worse
Of course, no wife expects that her husband of 20 years would ever be guilty of infidelity, however, the truth is that these situations occur every day.
So while a wife may be hopeful that she won't catch her husband cheating, she may also feel a need to prepare herself, just in case the situation arises.
That said, if you find yourself becoming extremely intolerant of the uncertain future that lies ahead, consider employing the following strategies to help you cope.
How to cope with Anticipatory Anxiety?
1. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions
Anticipatory anxiety is not something you develop overnight. As a result, if you pay close enough attention, you'll be able to recognize the symptoms and make an effort to address them.
One way you can do this is by practising mindful breathing. By taking a few deep inhales and exhales, you will be able to release any pent-up tension, gradually easing your anxiety.
2. Reason with yourself
As someone who suffers from anticipatory anxiety, it is important to remind yourself that many of your fears and anxieties are rooted in unrealistic events.
That said, the best way to combat these, is to replace them with evidence-based thoughts.
For example, if you’re feeling anxious or intense fear about an upcoming job interview, counter it by preparing adequately, envisioning yourself answering the questions to the best of your ability, and ultimately being successful in the interview.
3. Replace negativity with positivity
The key to dispelling anticipatory anxiety is replacing possible negative outcomes with more positive ones .
So instead of imagining that you may fail your upcoming exam, replace this with a scenario where owing to your hard work and hours spent reviewing course material, you pass your exam with flying colours.
Closing Thoughts On How To Cope With Your Anxiety About The Future
Anticipatory anxiety is a discomforting mind game we play on ourselves.
To overcome it, we must become more aware of our anxious thoughts, and replace unrealistic thinking with evidence-based thoughts.
If you've felt overly anxious about a future event, I'd love to hear all about it and your top coping strategies in the comments below.
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