Why does the unknown scare us? Why does the future cause us unrest? Why do we use anxiety as a mental placeholder while we wait for something to happen?
Well, the answer is simple: anticipatory anxiety.
Humans like control. We like to know what is happening, who is doing it, what it will feel like, and when it is supposed to happen. I am speaking for the vast majority of people. I will exclude the true wanderlust hippies who live blissfully in the NOW. Hopefully, the rest of us lay people can join you one day.
Scene: You have a presentation for work at 4:00pm. You wake up that morning, feeling a blend of nausea and excitement. You can’t focus at work and you feel like your brain has taken residence in a cloud high above the office. You might feel foggy, unfocused, on edge. Your brain recognizes the importance of the presentation and (rather unfortunately) decides it is a really BIG SCARY TERRIFYING THING. That is the deal with an anxious brain. It is overstimulated and angry with adrenaline. You might feel your heart rate increase, another sign that the sympathetic nervous system is pre-gaming this event. Why do the hours leading up to something stressful also have to be stressful? Hey Universe, that is not fair.
So, how do you challenge the anticipatory anxiety. I will let you in on a secret. The event is never as scary as you pictured it. You didn’t barf, pass out, or cry. Or maybe you did…but most people are genuine humans and would be empathetic to your struggle. It is never that bad, that scary, that daunting. Your mind and your adrenal glands have been primed to give exaggerated reactions to stress. Let’s talk about how to calm that response system down in the hours leading up to a stressful event.
- Be mindful of the present
- focus on what you are doing right now
- what do you smell, hear, taste, feel, see?
- Challenge the catastrophic thoughts
- what is the worst thing that could happen? (thanks to my mom for instilling that great trick, love you!)
- Make a positive thought for every negative thought?
- “Ugh, why am I so anxious right now?!”
- Counter with “I can harness this feeling to give a creative, energetic presentation”
- utilize Pranayama breathing techniques to engage that lovely parasympathetic nervous system and slow the mind/body down
Anxiety blows. Why wait precious hours getting anxious about possibly being anxious? It is a cyclic thought nightmare. Just say stop. Literally, yell the word stop. Embrace the present moment, focus on your breathe, and save your beautiful brain power for something more productive.
I challenge you to try some of these techniques the next time you find yourself ruminating before a stressful event. Your life is beautiful and worthy. You don’t deserve to waste time with worry.
Love and Light.
Slowing down before a presentation with a 5 minute meditation and some Doterra aromatherapy.