Are you totally trippin’ … on the trepidation of things that haven’t even happened? Same.
There are a lot of us anxious girlies out there “future tripping,” aka having anticipatory anxiety.
“A really poetic way of describing it is like ‘bleeding before you get cut,’” says board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Sasha Hamdani. “Anticipatory anxiety entails being preoccupied with future uncertainties, including concerns about potential negative outcomes or the possibility of not achieving one’s intended goals.”
Cool, cool, cool.
“It manifests as a sense of unease when one is bracing for challenging decisions, actions, or situations. Anticipatory anxiety can often seem like a forewarning of danger, triggering a heightened sense of caution,” Dr. Sasha says.
Below, she goes deeper into what anticipatory anxiety is, how it feels, and ways to overcome it.
“Anticipatory anxiety includes worrying about and wanting to avoid feeling anxious or panicky, as well as experiencing disgust, anger, shame, regret, humiliation, being overwhelmed, or any other emotions we don’t want to feel,” Dr. Sasha says.
So, how is that different from general anxiety? Dr. Sasha says that although it can look very similar to general anxiety, it is triggered by upcoming events or circumstances.
She says you may experience:
- Feeling on edge, restless, or keyed up.
- Having trouble concentrating or feeling like you have a “blank” mind.
- Feeling irritable.
- Feeling easily tired.
- Feeling muscle tension.
- Having sleep problems like difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep.
All of that is, obvs, not great for our health. “Prolonged stress and worry can harm your overall health and mess with your hormones,” Dr. Sasha says. “Your body releases too much cortisol, which can spike sugar and fat levels. This ongoing cortisol overload can lead to problems like memory trouble, stomach issues, sleep problems, weak immunity, high blood pressure, and sometimes even heart attacks.”
Then there’s the emotional toll that anticipatory anxiety takes. “You might feel stuck in constant worry, dread, restlessness, and negative thoughts. You can’t shake these thoughts, and they’re tough to control,” she says. “Without properly managing anxiety, it is possible to actually restructure the parts of your brain that make you feel anxious. That can create a cycle of negative thinking.”
Being sentient is fun!
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps we can take to overcome worrying about the future.
“Managing anticipatory anxiety on your own involves several strategies,” Dr. Sasha says. These include:
Prioritizing sleep. “Ensure you get adequate rest, as sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety,” she explains. “Manage caffeine intake, and incorporate relaxation techniques to establish a healthy sleep routine.”
Staying active. “Regular physical activity, even just 15 to 30 minutes daily, can alleviate anxiety symptoms by regulating your body,” she says.
Practicing mindfulness. “Employ calming practices like meditation, deep breathing, or creative activities to stay present and reduce future-focused worries,” she says.
Shift your focus: “Distract yourself from distressing thoughts by scheduling enjoyable activities after anticipated events and using temperature changes to regulate your body and breathing,” she suggests.
Self-compassion: “Treat yourself with kindness, like a close friend, and ask gentle questions to challenge negative thoughts,” says Dr. Sasha. “Positive affirmations can also help shift your mindset towards a more positive perspective.”
Know what else is helpful? Therapy. “If your ongoing anticipatory anxiety is causing problems, and your usual coping methods aren’t enough, it might be a good idea to talk to a therapist if you can,” Dr. Sasha says. “Therapy is hugely beneficial. Successful therapy aims to focus on what you’re experiencing right now, change your attitude, and accept your anxiety without trying to fight it. It’s about redirecting your attention from worrying about the future to being in the present moment.”