My wife and I have been together since high school, and she was just offered a new position at work. Yay!! We’re so excited. But there was only one catch: the offer required that she take and pass a standardized test. Three things trigger her anxiety more than anything else: doctors, spiders, and tests. When any of these three is a possibility, she can’t sleep and loses her appetite. We’ve always known this was an issue for her, but we work through it. One step at a time.
Her anxiety before these events made me curious. Is this normal or is it a sign of something more? Is she ok? I mean, I get anxious about some things, but not to that extent. So, I did a little digging. In the process, I came across some interesting articles and research regarding something called “anticipatory anxiety.”
What is anticipatory anxiety?
It sounds clinical, but anticipatory anxiety comes from fear or worries about things that could happen — situations, events, or experiences that may lie ahead. It can stem from past experiences, but it doesn’t always. My wife’s anxiety with tests or spiders doesn’t stem from past trauma. The anxiety with doctors? Now that’s a different story.
Some symptoms may include things like hyperventilating, chest pain, difficulty concentrating and feeling apprehensive. It can also show up as sleep issues, loss of appetite, emotional numbness, and trouble managing emotions.
Aren’t we all a little anxious about the future?
Sure! It’s normal for all of us to feel anxious about the future from time to time. Tests, moving, big trips, new jobs, and major medical procedures are just a few examples of things that cause anxiety. It’s not unusual to worry over these things, but there’s a BIG difference between being worried and having anticipatory anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some differences. A 2015 study looked at “phasic fear”(fear that precedes a threat you can predict) and anticipatory anxiety. Phasic fear lasts for a short time. On the other hand, anticipatory anxiety lasts longer and is a reaction to an unpredictable threat. Each fear activates different parts of the brain. The researchers found that we all experience different levels of anticipatory anxiety. BUT if a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, anticipatory anxiety can go well beyond what most people experience. Anticipatory anxiety can be life-limiting for those who suffer from panic disorder, PTSD, or a phobia.
An American Psychological Association survey in March 2021 found that 50% of participants reported anxiety in the current reentry phase of the pandemic. We’re probably all a little anxious right now as the world reopens and kids return to school (in some areas of the country for the first time since March 2020). We might even worry about a COVID recurrence or future pandemics.
So, how do we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
Anticipatory anxiety can put stress on personal relationships because you’re distracted by what-ifs. It can be life-limiting as you try to avoid things you’re afraid of. But you can cope with anticipatory anxiety and work to overcome it.
We can also help others cope by paying attention to their actions and emotions. Maybe you have a loved one with anticipatory anxiety. If so, you can encourage them to use the coping mechanisms listed below. A strong support system that offers love, grace, and encouragement can make a world of difference.
Here are some methods to help you cope:
Practicing a relaxation response: Deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation are a few examples. Find something that calms you.
Self-talk: Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who’s having a similar experience. Self-compassion can make you more mindful. It can also motivate you to recognize and face your fears.
Healthy distractions: Take a walk, listen to music, engage in your favorite hobby, or exercise.
Challenge your anxious thoughts: Ask yourself if you’re being realistic. If you aren’t, challenge those thoughts with realistic ones.
Take action: Sometimes, the best solution is to confront whatever makes you anxious. This may mean taking small steps toward conquering your fears. You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
So, my wife faced her test anxiety. She studied diligently. The kids and I cheered her on and offered words of support and encouragement. We created an environment at home to lessen her anxiety as the time to take her test got closer. And she passed her test. With that, the fear is gone… until the next test. But, when it comes to spiders, we’ve got a long road ahead. [Read How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety]
Overcoming anticipatory anxiety takes work. But, reining in your fears will be helpful for you and your family. If you think your anticipatory anxiety could be a sign of something more, consult with a therapist or counselor for guidance.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Untitled-2-01-3.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-07-30 12:10:142021-08-11 00:20:59What You Need to Know About Anticipatory Anxiety
First, the world shut down. It was inevitable as COVID-19 was spreading. But you weren’t sure how you’d handle it. Work, school, health, friends, jobs, money. There was so much uncertainty.
Then, at some point, you settled. You recognized what you could control. You started making the best of it and even realized that it wasn’t so bad. Who are we kidding? You were surprised at how much you were enjoying it. Slower pace. Family time has been fun time. Meaningful conversations with friends. You found your routine.
You noticed the anxiety level in your home decrease. Not because of the absence of issues. Jobs aren’t all steady. Health concerns are everywhere. There’s lots of unrest in America right now. But the slower pace, the presence of the people you care most about, the ability to connect with family and friends, even if they are virtual connections, has helped you to live and process life in real time.
During pre-quarantine days, many of us were moving so fast that we were simply going through the motions of life, but weren’t processing all that we were experiencing. We had become accustomed to our way of doing life and never considered alternatives. And now the world is ready to open up and you’re not sure you’re ready to give up the benefits of this new lifestyle. So what do you do?
If You Aren’t Ready, Try These Things
Accept: Just like we accepted the shelter-in-place orders and the fact that COVID-19 was spreading. We must accept that the world can’t stay shut down forever.
Identify your fears: This could be anything from COVID-19 to busyness. You may be scared of losing the deep connections you’ve formed. The return of stress, anxiety, perpetual activity. Loneliness.
Be intentional: Just because the world is opening up doesn’t mean you have to dive in headfirst and resume everything you were doing before. Identify the things you have to do. Think through the things that are optional.
Practice Using One of the Most Powerful Words in the English Dictionary: NO. Be willing to say “no” to those things that compromise the very things you’ve said you don’t want to lose. You WILL say NO to a lot of good things. Good will often keep you from BEST.
You may not be ready for the world to reopen for many reasons. Taking control of what you CAN will help you to re-enter the world with purpose.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/arturo-rey-5yP83RhaFGA-unsplash-scaled-e1596224952538.jpg233500Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2020-06-09 09:05:152020-07-31 15:49:34The World is Reopening, And I’m Not Ready
Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on social media. Brother and sister have been fighting all day. Mom has had enough. Mom gets one of dad’s t-shirts and makes brother and sister wear it—at the same time.
Brother and sister look thrilled.
Some have called this a “Get-Along Shirt.” The funny thing is, while this may be a great deterrent for kids to stop fighting (“If you two don’t stop it, I’m getting out THE SHIRT!”), I’m not sure it does much to help brother and sister get along while they’re in the shirt. In my opinion, quite the reverse: It just makes them want to fight more.
This is how I picture being in quarantine with a spouse that you don’t particularly like. You feel glued at the hip, but you can’t get away.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to change our way of life. And if there has already been tension in your marriage before this whole mess began, then right now you might be wondering, how the heck do I get out of this giant shirt?
Let’s think about this situation. Chances are, back in the “old days” (pre-pandemic) one or both of you spent at least some of your day apart, possibly at work. Point is, your regular routine gave you time apart so that when you came back together, your relationship was more manageable. Life provided some ways to cope with the tension.
Not so at the moment in quarantine. There is no coming back together because there’s no time apart. Together is your reality right now. If there was tension in the marriage before, the coping mechanisms you used back then aren’t there anymore.
And whatever differences were coming between you back then, now they are magnified. You see the differences more. You are in difference-overload. And so the tension builds.
Your situation gives you a couple of choices:
You can choose to avoid the issue, be miserable in your Get-Along shirt,and live in increasing conflict, tension, stress, and anxiety. Sounds fun. (See picture above.)
Or, you can dig in your heels, be intentional, and decide to do what you can to lessen the tension and improve the situation with your spouse
★Disclaimer★ What I’m about to share with you is helpful, but it’s going to take intentionality and humility. When two people don’t get along, things only get better when pride is put aside. And yes, both people in the marriage need to make the effort, but it takes one person to begin to lead the dance. In other words, choose to be the first person to take up the mantle of humility; more often than not, the other will follow.
So you first have to ask some questions:
What is it specifically you don’t like about the person you’re in quarantine with?
Do you not like your spouse, or do you not like the situation you’re in?
Does everything about your spouse get on your nerves? Or are there one or two qualities that are magnified by the circumstances of the quarantine?
Could… this… possibly… be…you? Are you stressed, and that affects how you see your spouse? What are you dealing with inside of you that makes you see your spouse in certain ways?
These questions are humbling—they can bring you down a notch or two. But considering sincere answers help you to stop and put the right perspective on the situation. Then you are freed up to make a healthy response rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
Having said that, let’s consider some pro-tips:
Choose to see your spouse as a whole rather than one or two negative qualities. When there is something bugging me about my spouse, I have to stop and consider all the things that make up who she is, and I find the positives far outweigh the negatives. I consider all the ways she contributes to the family, what she’s done for me in the past, her background and history, how good of a mother she is. And it minimizes in my mind whatever it was that was getting on my nerves.
Think of five things you’re thankful for your spouse. The next time you find yourself frustrated at your spouse, try this. It’s a way to train your brain—to condition yourself —to see your spouse as a whole. When I’ve done this, I’ve found more often than not that I was frustrated at a molehill rather than a mountain. And even if you are facing a mountain, thinking of why you are thankful for your spouse clears your headspace to approach the issues in calm, effective waysrather than being reactive. Take a few minutes, write down five reasons you’re thankful for your spouse, and read them over.
Take time to decompress and do things to lower the tension. Lots of times conflict with your spouse is exacerbated by the stress of everything else going on around you. Take the opportunity to detach from life for a little while and do some self-care—both as a family and on your own. Go on a walk, meditate, read something inspirational, do some push-ups, cuddle with your cat or dog. Your self-care should be productive and healthy rather than merely an escape. This helps ease the tension and set a healthier atmosphere for communication. (Here and here are some great ideas on self-care.)
Try not to make big decisions during this time. The idea is to lower the potential for stress, not the reverse. If you can help it, avoid making big, life-altering decisions like major purchases or having children (although you need to keep the ones you already have).
Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Prolonged traumatic situations like the pandemic can cause a person to focus all their attention on the negative. This is extremely stressful and adds to the tension in your marriage. Reverse this pattern by thinking of the things you are thankful for at this time. And no matter the situation, there are always things to be thankful for. Make a list. Add to it daily. Gratitude helps lower the tension in the atmosphere and put the issue at hand in a proper perspective.
Put grace into place. Consider that our circumstances are affecting not only your emotional health but also that of your spouse. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they may be feeling. Keep in mind that you probably have magnified qualities that get on their nerves right now as well.
Quarantine has put a strain on all kinds of relationships, especially marriages already under strain. But by being intentional and putting pride aside, the tension can lessen. Putting these practices into place will help you and your spouse get along during this time of quarantine.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/christian-erfurt-sxQz2VfoFBE-unsplash-scaled-e1596645867229.jpg265450Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2020-04-27 08:20:142020-09-02 12:36:25What To Do When You Don’t Like The Person You’re In Quarantine With
By nature, I believe we as humans are caring and kind. We like to help and be there for others when they celebrate and when they go through tragedy. For example, we buy gifts when people have babies, get married, retire and reach other various milestones. And we bring food when others suffer the loss of a loved one or lose everything in a natural disaster. We sit close to those who are suffering from a terrible disease like cancer, in the midst of grief or going through a divorce. That’s how we love, comfort, support, and uplift.
Loving and caring for others who continue to face many of life’s celebrations and trials has become difficult since the pandemic. Our hearts begin to hurt because of the weddings we miss and the families we can’t mourn alongside. We grieve over the showers we can’t attend and the relief efforts we are limited in assisting after natural disasters.
The core of our humanity seems to be stripped away from us because of the need to quarantine and stay safe and healthy. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is what I’m giving up to “stay healthy” worth it? What’s the point of being a friend when you can’t do all those things that friends do? I don’t want to miss the birth of my cousin’s baby or the funeral of my neighbor’s son. What do I do?
How to Check In
That’s where we have to be creative. Here are some ideas to support, encourage and love those that are facing life-altering events during this time of quarantine.
Arrange for meal delivery and share virtual meals—We love to take food to those who are experiencing life-changing events. Instead, have the food delivered to them. Then, use a video app to eat together while you share in their grief or their excitement.
Virtual Photo Albums—Simply going through digital photos to walk down memory lane and using the “share screen” function that many video apps have promotes the bonding and connectedness we desire.
Drive-By Parade—Gather some of your friends safely. In your own cars, parade in front of their home with signs of celebration.
Gift-Giving Through Online Registry—Help loved ones set up online gift registries and purchase the gifts electronically. (Don’t assume everyone, such as your soon to be 70-year-old grandmother, knows how to set up an online registry.)
Electronic Greeting Cards—Find a ready-made one or design your own. You can send these directly to their smartphone. A sympathy card or one of celebration can offer timely words of encouragement.
Prepare A Virtual Trivia Game Night—Create trivia facts centered around the person being celebrated (TriviaMaker is a good app).
Mail a Handwritten Letter or Card—There’s still something that makes me feel special when I receive a letter. Knowing that someone took the time to handwrite something themselves—everything about that says that I am important. Emails or texts can’t match the feeling of a handwritten letter.
Attend Events Virtually—Knowing that you took the time to attend an event, whether it’s a wedding, funeral, or party, tells your loved one that you won’t let social distancing stop you from sharing in their moment.
Leave comments on their social media feed when appropriate. We know what it feels like to read our social media comments and feel the love and support of those who couldn’t be with us physically. It uplifts the spirit.
Call. But Use Video Calls As Often As Possible—Be available to listen. Allow those you love to vent, blow off steam and complain. You may not be needed to fix anything. Just being a listening ear goes a long way.
Note:When someone crosses your mind, call them then.Don’t wait—I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me at the perfect time when I was dealing with something. And they often started with, “I was just thinking about you and thought I’d call to see how you were.”
Record And Electronically Deliver A Special Video Message—You may be providing a keepsake that your loved ones will treasure forever.
Encouraging, loving and supporting others does make us feel good. It uplifts us and helps us feel meaningful and full of purpose. Ultimately, we have to remember that it’s not about you—it’s about the person on the receiving end.
A virtual meal or handwritten letter may not feel as satisfying to give right now. However, it can still help your loved one’s big life moments bring them the joy and peace they may need. That’s one of the special perks of having you in their life.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/harry-cunningham-1-Osp6CvhXc-unsplash-scaled-e1596645163776.jpg267400Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2020-04-21 16:17:392022-07-28 13:20:24How To Check In When You Can’t Check In