General Question

escapedone7's avatar

How do you deal with anticipation anxiety?

Asked by escapedone7 (5920points) April 5th, 2010

How do you deal with an upcoming event that you really dread? I can’t discuss the details but a hypothetical example would be a tax audit, or facing a neighbor in court that is suing you, or something very emotionally upsetting. I guess everyone has to face a day they dread. When something very troublesome is looming on the horizon, how do you deal? I’m a basket case.

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22 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Let me know. I am on my way for my annual mammography, having had breast cancer 14 years ago. I keep reminding myself to breathe. I talked to my sister, my best friend and my cat.

escapedone7's avatar

@gailcalled Saying a prayer for you.

FutureMemory's avatar

I tell myself that no matter how terrible the experience might be, it will be over in X amount of hours (or days). A good example for me is going to the dentist…that drill…

Just_Justine's avatar

The best thing to do is relaxation techniques, and to imagine the whole situation monitoring your feeling. Every time your heart rate changes, go back to relaxing your body.

You can manage anxiety as well by doing this:

Think of the situation then score your anxiety say it is 6, then consciously move it back to 5 then 4. It does actually work.

Also realize the worse part of fear is the fear in yourself.

I don’t know your situation but these techniques and others I have learned helped. I suffered agoraphobia for 7 years. Plus an horrendous fear of flying. Along with panic attacks.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I focus on the facts and realize that I don’t have any choice but to deal with whatever I’m facing head on. If I don’t deal with it, it will just get worse, so cut my losses and tackle it. I know I’m weird, I have this freakish ability to stay cool under pressure. My family loves this about me, I kind of dislike it.

escapedone7's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I would love the ability to stay cool under pressure!

@Just_Justine I will try slow breathing. It does help a little. The problem is still there like a big giant tidal wave looming over me. I guess I can’t stop it. Might as well breathe.

@FutureMemory I hope this is the end of my troubles and not just the beginning. Hopefully you are right!

marinelife's avatar

Consider the worst possible outcome and figure out what you will do about it in advance. A lot of the fear is facing the unknown. If you make it knowable, you diminish it.

Then when the event happens, and the worst possible outcome does not, you will be relieved.

stardust's avatar

I remind myself that it will be over with in time, go through the worst possible outcome – tell myself I can deal with such an outcome & suddenly it becomes easier to manage.
Breathing techniques and a clear head also help.

wundayatta's avatar

So this is long, but I think it’s a (real life) story you’ll enjoy and it’ll be worth reading it.

Way Out of My League

Yesterday, I had an Easter gig. I’m a trumpet player who doesn’t play very often—maybe once a week. My lips are not in shape, to say the least.

About a month ago, out of the blue, someone called to ask me if I could play. Their regular horn player wasn’t available for some reason, and he couldn’t find another one (which must have meant he’d done an awful lot of calling to get to me). Normally, on Easter, I hang out with the kids’ Easter egg hunt. On our block. It’s a good chance to hang out with the neighbors after being shut in all winter. But this year, the even, I believed, was cancelled. The guy seemed really desperate, so I told him I would agree if I thought I could play and do a good job.

I saw the music, and I thought if I worked really hard I could get into shape in time. It was only then that I found out the Easter egg hunt was back on. They needed me in order to play the starting fanfare. I was committed to my gig by then, so I felt I couldn’t get out of it, but they changed the starting time of the hunt so I could play the fanfare before I did my other gig.

Great! Now I had two gigs. I better redouble my efforts to build up my lip. Alas, as things worked out, I didn’t have time to work really hard.

The Day before Easter, I headed to our one and only rehearsal. At this time, in my mind, I was expecting that there would be an entire orchestra, and so if I made a mistake, no one would hear it. After all, the guy asking me to play had called in an orchestra, right?

I got there (Curtis Institute) to find the director waiting for the rest of us. Curtis has these dark old wooden walls and looks very historic and respectable. The director proceeded to tell me all about the really famous people, such as Leonard Bernstein, who had studied there. ‘Nice,’ I thought.

Then he told me two things that made me suddenly shaky in my knees. One, there would only be three other people with us. I was a soloist. Second, the other musicians would be a selection of top ranked Curtis students from around the world (Korea, China, Russia).

We started the rehearsal, and it was like I was a kid, trying to play for the first time. I couldn’t figure out the beat. I couldn’t hit the first notes. We had to start about six times before I could understand it. As we went through it, my hands started shaking harder and harder and my mouth grew dry as a good Chardonnay. Then, playing the piece, I missed note after note and got lost and oh God, I don’t know. I kept working my mouth to try to dredge up some saliva. I couldn’t control my hands, and my long notes wavered very unsteadily, like a spinning top that is about to crash.

We finished the first run through, and I thought ‘phew. Now I can relax a bit. The other piece isn’t so bad.’ Then the director said, “Ok. Let’s do it again.” I nearly dropped my horn.

I thought, ‘my lips can’t handle this. I’ll blow them out and have nothing for tomorrow.’ I picked up my horn, and we played it through, and I couldn’t hold the long high notes because I had no lip left. If I had been my teenage self, I would have been horribly embarrassed, but if I’ve gained only one thing over the last thirty years, I’ve learned to enjoy music and making music, no matter how judgmental I feel people are. Sort of.

And then we were finished with the second run-through, and unbelievably, he asked for a third. He must have seen the drainedness in my body and on my face because he cancelled the request and asked if I wanted a break. I gratefully agreed and asked if I could get some water somewhere. One of the Curtis students said there was a water fountain upstairs.

I left the room, found a cup, and filled it at the water fountain. Finding a cup involved running up and down three flights of stairs, so I had plenty of time to think. Coming back down to our rehearsal room, I had a thought. ‘What was I thinking when I accepted the gig? I don’t think I can do this. What if I just run away and never come back? Hmmmm. I wonder what they would do with my horns.’ Anyway, I struggled through the rest of the rehearsal.

That night, I got no sleep. The thought of playing and messing up played over and over in my head. I played the pieces over and over in my mind. At one point ( 4 am) I had to go downstairs to check the timing on one piece. I came back to bed and tried to sleep again, and just as I was nodding off, my wife started coughing!

I woke up, got dressed (new suit), played the fanfare, and headed off. I was imagining the piece and thinking about how screwed I would be if my mouth got dry and my hands started shaking. As if in response, my mouth started getting dry. ‘This can’t be happening,’ I thought. ‘What can I do?’

I thought, ‘Religious people pray to God in order to calm themselves before something like this. What is going on there? They give up control and this seems to calm them. They focus on their idea of God instead of thinking about their worries. They trust God to handle things.’

‘Maybe I can do something like that. If I just give up my thoughts of control and worry, maybe I can relieve some of this anticipatory anxiety. Let me try to use those mindfulness techniques I’ve been dabbling with to see if I can do it.’

I’ll admit, I used the word “God” in my thinking/praying. Then I thought about what I think the idea of God translates to in my (atheist) world. I think God means the universe and everything. It’s a kind of vastness that contains everything and is too big to possibly comprehend.

I thought it’s an idea of being cared for. It’s an idea of not having to worry because the universe will take care of things. It will be what it will be.

And oddly enough, my saliva came back. Slowly, slowly. But it stayed with me, through our rehearsal (where I hit my first two notes—yay—except what if I can’t do it for real) and then, through our performance. I even hit the first two crucial notes there!

I made mistakes and I cracked notes, and I even lost my place once, but it was in the middle, and in a not very important part, and I figured out where I was just in time to play an important fanfare section of the piece. On the last piece where the full ensemble played, I couldn’t hold the last high note for ten beats (the damn pianist loves to slow things down for her dramatic ending notes) and the violinist gave me a look.

I had done it! It was over! My mouth stayed wet (it had threatened to go dry a couple of times, but I was able to pull it back), and my hands didn’t shake, and I even had a good time. Hell. I think I’m proud of myself!

chyna's avatar

@gailcalled Thinking of you… Let me know that it came out all right.

escapedone7's avatar

@wundayatta That was awesome! I can imagine that was some huge anticipation anxiety too. I am glad you pulled it off! What an honor to play in that situation. I am proud of you too! (You should publish that. It would make a great piece for a little magazine or something.)

wonderingwhy's avatar

Why worry about what you can’t control? Just take a deep breath, let your body relax, and remember, no matter what happens, you can handle it. Rinse and repeat as needed.

Doesn’t sound like much, but it works.

ucme's avatar

Bite the bullet & get on with it.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I think @wundayatta covered it:

Plan, prepare, practice… and then go with the flow.

gailcalled's avatar

Clean mammogram. Thanks for the concern. The lovely Women’s Imaging Center has streamlined the procedure and for those of us who are breast cancer survivors, a radiologist reads the now-digital info asap. So there is no waiting for letters or phone calls.

And if the skies are clear after dusk, one can see Venus and below it, 5˚ or so to right, in the WNW, little Mercury.

chyna's avatar

@gailcalled That is fantastic news! So happy for you!
I’ll look for Venus tonight.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

Xanax. Lots of it.

wundayatta's avatar

@rahm_sahriv I don’t know if you are being serious or not, but someone I spoke to about that situation seriously suggested I take some anti-anxiety medication. This made me wonder what it would feel like to take something like xanax, and whether I would be able to play well under it’s influence or not.

Has anyone done this?

gailcalled's avatar

Xanax is not called a sedative for nothing. It will make you foggy, make your lip wobbly and make you want to lie down and make cloud pictures. You won’t be playing either sharp or flat but only dull, if you can manage to hold onto the horn.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I reason then become irrational anyhow. Insomnia sets in, I crave food but then it doesn’t taste right, I get naseaus, break out in skin hives, start my period, get hypersexed and all around cranky assed.

liminal's avatar

This may sound funny to some, but I talk to myself as if I were talking to one of my children facing something that terrifies them. It is like taking a step back, yet pressing in at the same time. I purposefully do things that feel comforting to me that don’t drain my energy. (For me, that is hot baths, meditation, and nature walks.)

I hope things work out for the best.

CodePinko's avatar

Immediate gratification.

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