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What It Feels Like to Experience 'Anticipatory Anxiety'

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Your heart may race out of your chest as you contemplate the future, wondering what tomorrow holds, fearing the worst. Your palms may sweat as you feel your muscles tense in a familiar, chaotic dance to the beat of your thunderous heart. You may comprehend you remain safe in the present, but the what-ifs of tomorrow haunt you, taunt you, tease you as your anxiety washes over your entire being.

You may attempt to soothe yourself, frantically scribbling away your discomfort, longing for your short, shallow breaths to restore themselves to serenity, desperately trying to feel as your mind races and your heart thuds in your chest. You may flit from activity to activity in a clamorous frenzy, your mind disconnected from your body, your actions automatic and unconscious. You may lose sight of time and space as you fervently attempt to distract yourself from the reality of your beating heart, not fully aware that the chaotic world in front of you is slowly ticking on.

You may procrastinate the inevitable, holding back the moment you fear until it’s no longer possible to ignore your fate. You may linger over project after project, wondering if in your attempts to preserve your calm you will ever find peace. Your anxiety may deceive you, convincing you that the longer you stall, the calmer you’ll feel as the terrifying moment you’ve been dreading arrives to haunt you.

But you may fight your anxious thoughts, knowing deep in your heart that delaying your future fears may cause you to spiral so far downward that you’ll feel trapped in your own mind. You may access your own wisdom and realize that taking action in the face of your anxiety is the only way to mitigate the fears that bind you. You may have the knowledge and experience to fight your overwhelming anxiety but feel your anxiety striking you back, pulling you down as you struggle for control over your own mind.

You may finally convince yourself to take the leap despite your mounting anxiety, to take action even as your breath catches in your throat and your heart aches in your chest. You make the decision, make the call, determine the path to a fulfilling but terrifying future, heart racing every second. But as your moment of trepidation finally ends, you may find your breath deepening, your heart calming in your chest, your palms less clammy, your mind less clouded. You may breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that your anxiety convinced you to agonize over something that didn’t place you in harm’s way.

You may know that your anxiety creeps into your mind, deceiving you into fearing the future even as you discover there’s nothing to fear. But the next time that familiar pressure arises in your chest, you may finally feel ready to conquer, afraid but prepared to decide your future despite your anxiety.

Photo by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash

Originally published: May 15, 2020
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