Living in a State of Anxious Anticipation of the Next Potentially Stressful Event

In life, there are many events (big and small) that are out of our control. It could be a family get-together, or a big corporate function for work. Events happen all the time, and we tend to deal with anticipation of these events differently.

Getting anxious and excited for a ‘stressful’ event isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, if the potential stress of an upcoming event starts to become debilitating, it can become a serious problem. Anxiety can rear its ugly head quickly, causing you to over-analyze and make assumptions about what might happen during the big event.

Living in this state may not seem bothersome at first, but as more and more events inevitably get added to your calendar, it can become harder to ignore how those anxious feelings take over your life. Thankfully, there are a few ways in which you can manage this anxiety, and try to get through every event without negative anticipation.

Picture the Worst Scenario

Sometimes, this comes naturally to those who are anxious about an upcoming event anyway, but if not, try picturing your biggest fears about what could possibly happen. The ‘worst case scenario’ is often wilder in our own heads than it could ever realistically be.

If you’re able to imagine what that scenario would be, you can practice how you might react to it, and what you would do in that situation. That gives you a bit of control, and can help you to feel more stable before going into the event.

Understand Your Control

Some things you’ll be able to control, and some you won’t. Understanding that ahead of time can make an organized event seem less intimidating. Make a list of things you’ll be in control of at the get-together. Then, make a list of things that are out of your control. Try to center your focus on the things you’ll be able to control. You may even benefit from pulling out that list at the event itself to remind yourself that it doesn’t need to be completely chaotic – you are in charge of some things!

Enjoy What You Can

Try to focus on the small moments and things you know you’ll enjoy about your next stressful event. If it’s a get-together with your family, try to think about the things you love about them, or a funny running joke between you. If it’s a work event, focus on the reward for a job well done, or an opportunity to relax away from the office.

Anxiously anticipating an upcoming event can quickly feel overwhelming for some people. It’s understandable that when a stressful event starts looming, we let our minds wander. Focus on the right scenarios and understand that you’re not totally lost before going to one of these events. You don’t have to let your anxious thoughts take complete control every time, once you’re able to utilize a few of these tips before each event.

Marjorie Strachman Miller, PhD, LMFT and Heidi Vanderwerff, LICSW of Counseling Petworth DC, Kennedy Counseling Collective believes that mental health is a priority, and therapy services should be accessible to everyone.