Anticipatory Anxiety

19 August 2019

IS YOUR LIFE PLAGUED BY constant what ifs, and disasters that never happened? Are you always on the lookout for things to go wrong?

One reassuring fact about anticipatory anxiety is that it often concerns something that’s already happened. It’s usually based on a past experience of something that didn’t go well. Those past memories are replayed over and over, probably embellished with a few new disasters that never actually happened, and the whole unhappy event is projected into your future where you see it happening again.


To expect something, or to prepare for something before it happens.

A person starts to ‘fear’ that disastrous outcome, and the natural human response to fear is avoidance. Some things can indeed be avoided, but doing so starts to seriously diminish their quality of life. Other situations cannot be avoided, and those are the ones that cause undue anxiety.

A little anxiety is alright

Going into a situation with a certain amount of anxiety can be a good thing. It motivates you, it sharpens the mind, and it focuses your attention on the task you’re facing It improves your performance and prevents you from appearing sloppy or complacent.

However, instead of focusing on the task or event, do you find yourself focusing on the fear and what ifs? That doesn’t really help because it draws your attention to the fear and away from where it needs to be focused; the task in hand. A small amount of fear sharpens the mind, but too much urges a person to avoid and escape, and that definitely isn’t what you need. When the level of anxiety grows out of all proportion to the situation you face, it will prevent you from being your best.

Incidentally, many top performers experience anxiety (nerves) and even a little fear before an event, but it’s a good kind of fear. They embrace it, knowing that it will enhance their performance. Without enough anxiety they won’t perform up to their full potential, but too much will interfere with their performance.

The good news is that most times, anticipatory anxiety is a lot worse than what you end up experiencing. When you actually start doing the activity – bringing it into the present – the anxiety fades away.

Light bulb moment!

Anxiety can only apply to something in the future yet it’s based on experiences from the past.

Confidence and self esteem

Anxiety is worrying about something uncertain in the future, and being unable to cope with the outcome when it arrives. So improving confidence and self esteem can indirectly help to lessen anxiety.

When you improve your self confidence you feel more sure of yourself and your abilities. This allows you to tolerate uncertainty more easily because you know that when the time arrives, whatever happens, you’ll cope with it. Feeling like this in advance means there’s less to worry about.

With low self esteem a person has little faith in themselves or their abilities, often expecting failure and for things to go wrong, even before they try. These negative outcomes aren’t very appealing, hence they fear and avoid them; thus engaging anxiety. So increasing your self esteem allows you to believe in yourself and your ability to successfully deal with the situation, thus reducing anxiety about it.

A lot of anxiety – especially social anxiety – is worrying about what other people think. With higher self esteem a person accepts themselves as they are, and isn’t ashamed of their weaknesses. In fact they don’t see them as weaknesses at all. This gives them one thing less to worry about, thus reducing their anxiety still further.

I once knew a very successful businessman who wasn’t afraid to admit he experienced anxiety, simply because he had such a rock solid belief in himself as a person. His anxiety didn’t define who he was, and it didn’t hold him back from making millions.

Discover how to:

Imagine a successful outcome

It’s bad enough having anxious thoughts, but have you ever thought about how you have them?

Do they go something like, “Oh my god!! It’s gonna be awful...  terrible...  I won’t be able to cope. I’ll look such a total idiot, and everyone will hate me. It’ll all be a disaster...”

And then you stop!

Just when things get as bad as you could possibly make them, do you stop and leave those thoughts hanging in mid air?

And what next?

Do you wind the scene back and play it again...  and again...  and again...

I thought so!

It’s like watching one of those cliff hanger scenes at the movies, but what happens in the film? There might be a little dramatic pause to create suspense, then the scene is resolved and the tension is over.

So let’s try something different.

Imagine the anxiety provoking situation unfolding in your mind, but this time keep the thoughts going, because in real life, time doesn’t just stop like that. You know the situation will eventually be over – it has to be – and even if you don’t yet know how, you know that somehow you will get through it. And you also know, from experience, that things always go much better than you expected.

So with that in mind, think about how you will feel about ten minutes after the event, when things have gone much better than you expected. The relief feels almost like a huge weight being lifted from your shoulders, and you somehow feel lighter and more uplifted. And you smile, and you feel rather proud of yourself as you stand their in your future, looking back at how well you dealt with that situation that’s now behind you.

It’s not possible to feel scared about something that’s already happened.

Feeling better about it now?

Things can look and feel completely different when you play around with time in your mind; your own virtual reality simulator. This is using your imagination resourcefully for once, not misusing it to scare yourself like you so often do!

What do you want to do now

Don’t trouble trouble
till trouble troubles you!

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Pass Through Panic CD

Pass Through Panic
Dr Claire Weekes

Free yourself from anxiety and fear.

In this eight-part radio series originally broadcast in 1967, Dr Claire Weekes – bestselling author of Self Help for Your Nerves – speaks intimately and compassionately about how to overcome panic disorders, anxiety, phobias, agoraphobia, and depression. She coaches you on how to ‘pass through panic’ to reach a place of strength and optimism.

Her revolutionary approach is remarkably simple and effective, and continues to be recommended by medical and psychological communities throughout the world.

Original radio broadcast: 2 hours on 2 CDs.

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