Events can occur at home, at work, at the National Guard, and in your community which disrupt your usual feelings of safety and security. When unexpected events occur in your workplace, home and community, you may experience a heightened sense of anxiety and concern for yourself, your co-workers, and your family members about the possible threat. You may even have a feeling of panic or fear. You may notice yourself being on edge, fearing every small illness, paying more or much less attention to the public health reports, and feeling a sense of dread which you can’t explain.
These can be symptoms of anticipatory anxiety. Anxiety is defined as the subjective state of apprehension and uneasiness. Anticipatory anxiety is worry and nervousness about future events which may or may not occur, and which may or may not be negative.
Sometimes having been in a war zone can cause anticipatory anxiety when a soldier returns home. We anticipate that we will not be able to control a situation or ourselves.
These thoughts and feelings affect people differently, but in general, when we are anxious, we tend to think about the worst possible outcomes, we feel a sense of fear, and our hearts race. The following are some reactions you may have when anxious:
- BODY – headaches, nausea, diarrhea, body temperature changes, sweating, rapid breathing, light headed or dizzy feeling, rapid heart beat, dry mouth, and fatigue
- BEHAVIORS – fidgeting, pacing, yelling, rapid speech, increased aggression, road rage, eating more or less, change in sleep pattern, avoidance, and substance abuse
- EMOTIONS – fear, excessive worry, anger, rage, depression, irritability, agitation, and crying
- THOUGHTS – racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts, catastrophizing, hopelessness, and helplessness
Usually, the symptoms of anticipatory anxiety build in intensity gradually and decrease quickly after the anxiety-provoking situation is over. The difficulty comes from the fact that the situation may occur in an unexpected way at an unexpected time or may never occur.
Strategies to Reduce Anxiety
You may be experiencing a range of reactions. The following are some strategies you can use to decrease your own anticipatory anxiety.
- Focus on what you do have control over: your thoughts, your feelings, your physical activity, your interpersonal interactions – yourself.
- Be alert, but not so alert that you become paranoid.
- Act upon what you do have control over: your work, redirecting negative thoughts, your health, taking care of yourself and your family, and continuing on with your daily routines and schedule.
- Be prepared. Heed the recommendations given by the authorities in charge of handling the crisis.
- Challenge catastrophic and irrational thoughts: Stay focused on the present. Do not make assumptions about the future or think about “what if’s.” Redirect your thoughts away from these fears by using positive affirmations.
- Reach out and connect with friends and family. A sense of community is very healing.
- Respect everyone at work and at the Guard. People are different. Some people may want to talk a lot about their concerns; others may want to be silent. Respect people’s wishes.
- Try deep breathing. Practice breathing by slowly inhaling through the nose allowing your diaphragm to expand and then exhaling even more slowly through your mouth.
- Try some ‘soft’ stress management activities: exercise, play or watch sports, engage in your hobbies, play some video games that do not cause anxiety or fear.
- Use positive images to form a private sanctuary, a safe place to retreat to for quick “mini-stress breaks.” Repeat a short phrase, prayer, or mantra while you are there.
- Express your feelings.
- Discuss your concerns with a trusted buddy at the Guard.
- Keep your usual routines.
Each person experiences anticipatory anxiety differently.
If you find that you need to talk with someone, or get some additional coaching to deal with your reactions, consider calling us at 855 HELP GYB (855-435-7492).
@Copyright, Sobel & Raciti Associates, Inc., 2011