Anticipatory Anxiety: 10 Tips to Cope with It

The anticipatory anxiety is the feeling of nervousness that appears when we think about future events.

Usually we experience this type of anxiety when we are unable to control future events, and we have an excessively high need for everything to go well or we have few sensations of control.

Anticipatory anxiety

In this way, the mere fact of not being sure about what will happen, cause us very high feelings of anxiety, which are experienced with  great discomfort and can greatly affect our day to day.

anticipatory anxiety

In this article I will talk about this anxiety disorder and I will comment 10 tips to be able to face it properly.

What is anticipatory anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety occurs in the moments prior to certain events in which the person experiences very high levels of tension and nervousness.

It usually appears in situations where the person puts high expectations on one’s own performance, and is afraid of not achieving his goals, embarrassing himself or making himself or herself look ridiculous.

Some examples of anticipatory anxiety are those feelings of nervousness that appear before making a presentation in public, traveling by plane  or performing specific activities such as driving or going to work.

Obviously, a person experiencing anticipatory anxiety before taking the car will have some fear of driving, and the person who experiences it before speaking in public will be quite nervous about doing this type of activity.

However, anticipatory anxiety does not appear while performing the feared action, but in the previous moments, in which the person does not stop thinking about the specific situation and feel unpleasant sensations when imagining his failure.

But look! This anxiety experienced in special situations need not always be pathological. What our body is doing at the moment is activating itself in a way that will maximize performance.

However, when this activation is too high and the anxiety increases rapidly to very high levels, the nervousness can turn against us.

It is in those moments when we experience unpleasant sensations like muscle tension and excessive sweating, palpitations, trembling voice, dizziness and nausea.

The appearance of all these symptoms are lived with much annoyance and at the same time they make us lose our capacity to render adequately.

So, in these cases it is important to know how to deal adequately with our state of activation, control our sensations and know how to manage our anxiety so that this does not pose a problem.

10 Tips for Treating It

1-Detect your thoughts

The first step in learning to adequately control our anticipatory anxiety is to know how to detect our thoughts.

If you suffer from this type of problem, you will certainly know the situations that give rise to anticipatory anxiety and what thoughts come to your head at that time.

Well, the first thing you have to do is simply to detect and record the kind of thoughts you have in those circumstances.

If you have a good memory and are able to remember them you can start writing them down right now.

However, you will detect them much better if you do them “live”, that is, if you are able to detect and record your thoughts right in those moments that appear.

The goal is to be able to detect all the negative thoughts you have in front of all the situations that cause you anticipatory anxiety, since they are responsible for originating the feelings and unpleasant feelings you have in those moments.

2-Evaluate and Modify

Once you have detected them we can start working with them.

As we have said, the source of your anticipatory anxiety is in your thinking and the negative or catastrophic predictions you make in your mind.

Your negative thoughts give you feelings of insecurity, beliefs that you cannot control the situation or ideas that things will not go the way you want.

However, the paradox is that you probably know yourself that the thoughts you have in those moments are not completely true, and that in those

Situations you always have a tendency to get worse.

Let’s take an example, if you have anticipatory anxiety before going to work is because you know that you will go to work, you will sit at your job and you will have to do your work tasks.

In fact, most likely these activities are done every day, and every day you play properly, however, as soon as there is something important to do at work anxiety appears before you go.

In this way, despite knowing that you will do your job properly, before you go you get nervous and in those moments you are not able to make a rational assessment of what will happen as you are doing now that you are calmer.

Well, the goal is that if you are able to think more clearly in those situations you have anticipatory anxiety, so that your thinking is able to control your nervousness and not the other way around.

So, take the list of thoughts you have done previously and propose a more rational and neutral thinking for each one of them.

The goal is that when a thought that causes you anxiety develops, have one or several alternative thoughts available that can compete with negative thinking and reduce your anxiety levels.

3-Learn to identify your emotions

Once you have alternative thoughts for your anxious cognitions, you will already have material to start fighting your anxiety. However, it is important that you know how to do it properly.

Alternative thoughts should be used in difficult times in which the anticipatory anxiety has already begun to flourish in you.

Thus, in order to use them properly and be able to combat your negative thoughts, you must also know how to identify your emotions and your feelings.

What do you feel in your body when anxiety begins to come? What emotions do you feel in those moments?


You must know yourself very well and you must know very well your anxiety response to be able to start working before she has taken over you.

In this way, when you identify the first symptoms of anxiety and the first negative thoughts, you can begin to fight each of them with your alternative thoughts.

Repeat the alternative thoughts over and over and try to challenge your negative thoughts, in this way; you will be able to reduce the advance of your anxiety.

4-Focus on what you can control

Another very useful exercise to reduce your anticipatory anxiety is to focus your attention on the things you can control and divert from those things you have control over.

And the previous exercise can be very useful for reducing your anxiety in the initial moments, but if you keep focusing only on those thoughts you can get more nervous than you should.

So direct your attention to those things that you know you can control, so your doubts will fade and you will have more confidence in yourself.

For example, when you go to work you do not know if the day will go well or not, if the meeting will be a success, if everyone will like your exposure or if everything will go great.

However, yes you can control those things that you will do. You can control what you say in the meeting, how you will make your presentation and what resources you will use to make everything go well.

And in fact, what you do will depend only on these things that you can control, the rest you cannot control now or ever, so no matter how  you think about it you will not draw any beneficial conclusions.

In this way, if you focus your attention on the things you will do and not on the external factors, you will realize that you have more control than you believed, so that your feelings of anxiety will cease to make sense.

5-Accept the uncontrollability of things

At the same time that you focus on the things you can control, you have to accept that there are many things that are uncontrollable.

It’s worthless if you focus on that you can control but you feel like controlling things that are uncontrollable.

In this way, you must raise awareness and reaffirm the idea that there are things that do not depend on you.

Take some time to think about those situations that produce anticipatory anxiety in a habitual way and analyze in a rational way which aspects you can control and which cannot.

If you do this exercise when you are calm, it will be easy for you to quickly discriminate which aspects are beyond your control.

Write them all down and use this material to analyze the situation the same way you do now when you begin to have anxiety.

This way it will be easier for you to have a wider vision when you approach your dreaded situation and optimally manage your anxiety states.

6-Perform relaxation exercises

Another technique that you can use to reduce your anxiety in those times that make you nervous is to perform relaxation exercises.

If you take a few minutes to relax when you start to be anxious you will not only relax your mind but you will be able to reassure your entire body.

You can strain your muscles, eliminate the nerves of the stomach, reduce your apprehension and reduce the discomfort you notice in your body.

However, depending on the situation you find it is not always easy to perform relaxation exercises, as you may not have the space or time to do so.

In those cases, a very simple exercise that you can use to reduce your feelings of anxiety is to perform a simple control of your breathing.

So, sit in a chair or lie down somewhere comfortable if you have the occasion and close your eyes softly.

Once you are comfortable begin to control your breathing by making slow inspirations through the nose for 8 seconds, hold the air for 8 more seconds and exhale gently for the same time interval.

While doing this exercise it is very important that you focus your breathing, noting how the air enters and leaves inside your body.

Likewise, you can repeat the alternative thoughts made earlier while performing the breath.

Do this exercise for about 5 or 10 minutes when you feel very anxious and you will notice how you manage to de-stress your nervous body.

7-Do sport

Playing sports frequently is a practice that brings numerous benefits both physical and psychological.

For example, the study by Rijeka, Brawley, and Schumacher in 1996 showed how frequent physical activity has beneficial effects in controlling anxiety.

So incorporating the practice of physical activity into your lifestyle will not help you control anticipatory anxiety when it does, but it will allow you to be less susceptible to it.

People who engage in physical activity frequently release their stresses more often and benefit more from the psychological effects of sport, so they are less likely to suffer from anxiety problems.

Also Reading: What to Do before an Anxiety Attack: 10 Tips

In this way, if you can incorporate the benefits of physical exercise into your mental well-being, the anticipatory anxiety will have more complicated to manifest itself.

8-Expose to uncontrollable situations

Finally, one last exercise you can do to gain more control over your anticipatory anxiety is to expose yourself to uncontrollable situations intentionally.

You can expose yourself to any type of uncontrollable situation or expose yourself directly to those situations that cause you anticipatory anxiety.

Benefiting from exposure to those situations that cause you anxiety is more complicated and usually needs to be done through the help of a psychotherapist, who will guide the exposure and cognitive and relaxation techniques to be performed.

However, you can expose yourself to situations that do not directly cause you anxiety but do have an important uncontrollability component.

In this way, you will get used to performing in situations where you cannot control certain aspects and you can put the previous exercises into practice, so that when you apply them to your real situations, you have a greater number of management resources.

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