Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.
Do you feel like anticipatory anxiety is a big part of your mom life right now? Yes, the ongoing pandemic probably has a lot of do with that, especially once you’re fully vaccinated and trying to figure out what normal looks like again in your life (and possibly your children’s lives as well). What’s been surprising to me is that things that seemed so normal in the past like seeing friends or attending school events are so filled with anticipatory anxiety today. There’s definitely a learning curve around all this newness, and I fear that these heightened feelings and emotions associated with it are going to stay put for a while longer.
Here are some ways anticipatory anxiety may show up before a new event:
- Wondering if you’re any good at this.
- Fear of the unknown.
- Hoping it will be worth your time and energy.
- Wondering in what ways you may embarrass yourself.
- Trying to figure out the purpose and your reasons for doing this in the first place.
- A desire to appear brave for others (such as your kids), while also feeling scared inside at the same time.
- Wondering how to simultaneously feel the fear and still go through with it.
- Thoughts about how to keep your personal anxiety symptoms in check (these may include pounding heart, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, light headedness, butterflies in your stomach, etc.).
- Struggling to stay present and not get lost in the anxiety cycle.
- A desire to keep intrusive thoughts and negative thinking contained.
What would you add here?
Possible ways anxiety might show up during a new activity:
- Feeling panicked and terrified.
- Intrusive thoughts about how you’re doing.
- Wondering why you’re participating in something you are not particularly enjoying.
- Trying to figure out ways to keep from failing.
- Not being comfortable with how different reality is from your original expectations.
- Wondering if you look silly in front of others.
- Ruminating on how you can be successful at this new activity.
- Trying to stay present and grounded, even if you’re not enjoying this moment.
- Fighting off negative thoughts like “this is too hard!”
- Comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re worse than everyone else.
What would you add here?
Feelings and emotions that may show up after trying something new:
- Proud about your accomplishment and following through with something hard.
- Sad it wasn’t as you expected.
- Happy the activity is over.
- Mad that the activity was a struggle for you to get through.
- Scared the next time might be worse… so why even try again?
- Embarrassed about all your mistakes.
- Frustrated you weren’t able to stay calm, cool and collected.
- Excited about trying more new things in life.
- Impressed you felt the fear and did it anyway.
- Focused on where this activity might lead you in the future.
What would you add to this list?
When I try something new that’s outside of my comfort zone (and doesn’t that just feel like just about everything these days?), it’s very rarely what I expected it to be like. This can be hard because my expectations and my reality don’t often line up with one another. When I have a certain picture in my head of how I’d like things to be, and I just can’t bring it to fruition, it can be quite frustrating, to say the least! Can you relate?
When you can catch yourself in this anxiety cycle, try bringing yourself back to the present moment by focusing on mindfulness and your five senses. Then, take a look at your reality, name and feel your feeling around it, and sometimes even try to add in some humor here as well.