Friday, August 21, 2009

anticipating anxiety or anticipatory anxiety?

a few days ago i mentioned how i had a totally busy weekend running all over the place - from classes, to clients, to parties and back again! i was so happy the week started again at a slow pace because i definitely needed some time to rejuvenate and breathe. i had my normal monday and tuesday night classes, but once wednesday hit something funny happened. as i made my way to my class that evening i was hit with the sensations of anxiety. now i've been teaching this class for months. it's only 15 minutes away from my apartment. i wasn't rushed or running late. i had nothing to stress over. so why was i finding myself feeling anxious? as i sat at a red light i tuned into what was going on inside and really tried to pay attention. then it hit me... the past weekend, on both friday and saturday night, i took this same route to the airport to pick up hubby and the next day to head to an engagement party. both events caused me immense stress getting there because the airport is always craziness and we hit an insane amount of traffic on the way to the party and i got very upset about being late. both days i had anxious feelings and stress on this exact drive. both days i passed the gym i work at on wednesdays. and now here i was, a couple of days later, on route to the class and my mind couldn't shake the feelings i had on this same drive just mere days earlier (for totally different reasons).

so we've all heard of anticipatory anxiety - when we have anxiety and anxious feelings over a future event that we find ourselves worrying obsessively about. but what was this? i mean, it wasn't anticipatory. i didn't even think about the past weekend drives until i started to wonder where these stressed feelings were coming from. it was more like... anticipating anxiety. my mind was anticipating traffic, airport craziness and an all-over stressful trip, when in actuality i was just heading to a class. since i did this drive two times previously and felt anxious, my mind just launched me back to that place because it was anticipating more anxiety. and for no other reason than the fact that i'd felt it a lot before when in the same place.

i switched my ipod to krishna das, i opened the windows up wide and i went right into my belly breathing. i brought myself out of this feeling of anxiousness even though in my mind it had become my norm. almost as if you have a relative that always gives you a hideous sweater for your birthday and every year you're forced to endure the embarrassment of wearing it for the rest of the day to appease that relative. each year you have that shiny wrapped gift in your lap and you mentally prepare yourself to smile through the pain of wearing it and expressing how much you love it. then one year you open it and it's a really awesome t-shirt that you've been eyeing. imagine your shock. my mind was prepping for that hideous sweater when i started driving that same route i had over the weekend. but, i was going to class, not racing to the airport or slammed in traffic.

so next time you experience anxiety and you're not quite sure where it's coming from... ask yourself if it's anticipatory anxiety or if you're anticipating anxiety because you're doing something that's caused you anxiety before.

image: jupiter images

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