It is normal and natural to anticipate. We anticipate a get together over the weekend, an upcoming vacation or going to a long awaited movMie premier. The list goes on and on.  However, it becomes a problem when the anticipation is one of foreboding, worry, uneasiness  and/or anxiety.  Hence the label, “Anticipatory Anxiety”. You may be one of many people struggling with an underlying  anxiousness that something will happen in an unknown future that will put you or a loved one in harms way. It is that sense of personal powerlessness to deal with such events that can keep you in an uncomfortable  state of worry. Many people report that they don’t know where these feelings come from but anything new to be faced can bring for them uneasiness, fear and/or anxiety.

However, more often than not, anticipatory anxiety can surface as a result of something or someone from your past adversely affecting you . You may not be aware of this connection with your past but it can certainly act as a trigger for your attitude and belief about future results. Though you may not have a direct memory of the past repeating itself in the future, it can condition you into thinking that the world can be a scary place and you need always to be on guard.  Coupled with this, you can give yourself  messages that you are not smart enough, motivated enough, strong enough to deal appropriately with life events.


You often hear that breathing exercises or various forms of meditation can bring you positive results. However, many people report that they have tried these various breathing techniques and those techniques don’t seem to work for them. What many people  fail to realize is that implementing a deep breathing exercise only when they are in the mist of feeling overwhelmed is of little use.  They fail to realize that proper breathing  exercises should be implemented even when there is no evidence of stress.  In this way proper breathing will be a matter of habit and will automatically kick in should worrisome feelings surface.  Remember proper breathing needs to originate from the diaphragm and not the lungs in order to derive the full benefits. The diaphragm is located between the chest and the abdominal cavity of the body.  That being said you should also understand that deep breathing exercises or meditation may not be for you. Some people don’t have the personality  or disposition to feel comfortable going this route.

Does that mean all is lost. Not at all. There are other things you may want to try that will help with dealing more effectively with anticipatory anxiety,


1.) Understand that nothing materializes out of a vacuum.  If you are experiencing anticipatory anxiety, it did not just materialize out of nowhere. You may want to begin by reflecting on possible origins of your way of thinking. Being aware of your past and how it influences your attitude toward future events can be enlightening enough for you to make a shift in your thoughts and behaviors.

2.)  When you’re facing a potentially uncomfortable future event, think about how         similar events in your past went well.  Then focus on those good feelings you experienced and understand and feel that those  good feelings can indeed be repeated.

3.) Put together a plan beforehand that would give you a more positive outcome. It will need to provide for various contingencies. You will also need to face any possible contingency in a bold and confident manner, even if, on a deeper level, you feel unsure .
4.) Picture yourself doing well in a future event.  Visualize and imagine you’re  experiencing positive feelings before, during and after the actual event.
5.) I would recommend that you challenge how logical and realistic are your worrisome thoughts concerning the possible outcome of a future event.  Remember not to confuse the possible with the probably. Anything unfortunate can possibly happen in the future. However, with proper planning, a positive attitude and realistic thinking, the probability of something bad happening is severely diminished.
6.) Don’t let your fear take you over.  You have to believe that you are more than your fears and worries. You should understand that your fears and worries are feelings and thoughts and do not define who you realistically are. Facing your fears and worries takes courage.  As you face and push yourself forward, in spite of those fears and worries, it will define you, in actuality, as a courageous person.  By you’re continuing to challenge those fears and worries, they will slowly be dissipated.  Being proactive in this way puts you in charge of your life.  Being in a reactive mode puts other people or other things in charge of you.


Comments, questions  and other ideas can be directed to Ray Shocki PhD, LMFT, LCSW at