From the moment we are born, it seems there is a lot of anticipation for our future. As babies, our parents watch us take our first steps and wonder how we will step into the world. As children in grade school, our teachers may ask us who we want to be when we grow up before we know who we are. For most of us, as young adults, we are pressured to declare a major in college and land that job that requires years of experience before having any life experience. Anticipation for the future can come with a ton of pressure and make us feel anxious - at least it has for me.
Living with anxiety is like being in a time machine - always focused on the future or the past, and rarely present. Coming from a single mother who struggled to provide for her three children, I always felt pressured to make sure my future was bright. I constantly worry about my future because my future determines how the next generation in my family will live. The classic "breaking generational curses" has always sat heavily on my shoulders. An anxious worry most Black, brown, and first-generation young adults have on their shoulders.
The uncertainty about the future, especially in today's climate, has made me feel like I'm possibly not alone in this. Having anticipation anxiety seems to be becoming more common among young adults. While processing my anticipation anxiety, I wanted to dig further into the meaning of anticipation anxiety and how we can become more confident in our future and live more in the present. I had the pleasure of talking with mental health professionals Sierra Hillsman and Marline Francois-Madden.
Here are their thoughts.
On Defining Anticipation Anxiety And Finding Hope In Crisis:
"Anticipation anxiety falls under the category of generalized anxiety, a phobia, and can be linked to panic disorders. I like to define it as the overarching theme of all three of these categories. With anticipation anxiety, the individual is dealing with the fear of what may come out of a particular circumstance. For example, if a person is anticipating the intensity of a test or even transitioning into the workspace. They may have worries about socializing with coworkers after so long, the intensity of the office, or even what they will do about child care. These are all common with anticipation anxiety."
"If we feel like we don't meet the standard or have the necessary tools to rise to the occasion, we might shrink ourselves. It is causing us to feel like we can't get through it."
"I always tell my clients to look at themselves in the three selves: self-image, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Self-image is how we see ourselves; self-efficacy is how we see ourselves in relation to our capabilities; self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. A coping mechanism that helps is increasing self-awareness. Take time to document your triggers; what sets you off? What are some warning signs? They may manifest physically, mentally, or emotionally. After, focus on hobbies that can reduce those stressors and help you cope until you get into a safe space.
"Find what gives you a sense of meaning and hope. This mindset will help you establish a sense of resiliency to move forward beyond your anxiety."
"On top of anticipation anxiety rising among the Black and brown community, there is still a lot of social and racial injustice in this country. Historically, this country has been oppressing us for generations, but the work that we're doing today gives us a sense of hope that we can create change today and create change for the children and generations after us. What is going to cause you to rise above it? What gives you hope at this moment?"
On Seeking Proper Help And Seeking The Positive Side Of Anxiety:
"Self-diagnosing for anticipation anxiety can be dangerous, and the individual needs to seek professional help from a licensed therapist. As previously stated, there are several anxiety-related disorders, and one needs to be properly assessed by a professional. Self-diagnosing can lead one to believe their symptoms are far worse than they are and can cause higher levels of stress."
"It is important to give yourself grace when dealing with anticipation anxiety and be honest with your emotions."
"While anticipation anxiety may not be viewed as a good thing, there are times where it can help one to be vigilant about potential harm. Some people may experience eustress, which feels like excitement about something in the future. For example, one may experience eustress from launching a new business, throwing a day party, getting married, or starting graduate school. These are perfectly normal emotions to have, be gentle with yourself, and live in the moment. "
"Practicing mindfulness daily can help to relieve any stressors. Also, building a community that you can share how you're feeling and letting them know how they can best support you at the moment can help relieve stressors and remaining present easier."
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