Are Anticipation + Anxiety the Same Thing?
So, there was a tingling feeling of anticipation as 6:30pm approached and then passed. As I waited, the feeling of anticipation grew as each moment ticked by, with me glued to my laptop watching for her to check-in. I checked my phone to see if there was a text or email and ran another pre-call test on the video platform I use to make sure it was working properly. After 20 minutes of this feeling of anticipation ramping up, I sent a message to my client to see if something had come up. It had and she had forgotten about her session.
As I read her response, I could feel the energy in my body change and that sense of anticipation completely and immediately dissipated. This experience got me thinking about how we perceive emotions. I realized that what I was experiencing as “anticipation” felt a whole lot like anxiety. When I was going through an extremely challenging situation a few years ago, I experienced a three-month period of heightened anxiety that, at times, bordered on panic. At the time I labeled it as bad and hard and upsetting.
This time I reached the realization that my mind was just calling the same sensations by a different name – anticipation instead of anxiety. It was the exact same energy in my body, the same sensations, but this time my mind had labeled it differently, so it completely changed my overall experience of it.
It got me thinking about how we, collectively as humans, quite love experiencing a wide range of emotions and sensations. We like surprises – some of us, anyway. We watch scary movies, listen to sad music; we get frustrated and exhilarated by sports. We even seek out things that disgust us, at times. It’s only when our mind tells us a story to explain the sensations we are experiencing that it is labeled as “good” or “bad”.
Why is it that we like the feeling of our heart pounding when we're "happy or excited” but worry about it and dislike it when we link it to "anxiety"? It's because we are listening to the story in our mind, that is trying to be helpful and explain to us why we’re feeling as we do. And not just listening, but BELIEVING the thoughts, the story, to be true.
Our mind is designed to connect dots and tell stories. And many times, the stories it comes up with are not completely accurate, or even true. But they are very convincing. Our mind is doing the best it can and, ultimately, is looking out for our best interests. But while it is working so hard to keep us safe, it is also keeping us small and stuck. It tells us that anxiety is “bad” and anticipation is “good”, when in truth they are both simply energy moving through us. And that energy will pass – it has to – it’s designed to. Unless we keep it alive with our attention and through our thoughts.
So the next time your mind jumps in to explain and label what you’re feeling, maybe try taking a step back and seeing it for what it truly is – simply energy moving through your body. When we can gain this insight, it completely changes our experience of emotions. When we can see that the thoughts that cycle on repeat in our mind are often not true, it also completely changes our experience.
*please note that everyone’s experience with emotions, including anxiety, can be very different. The views expressed in this post are based solely on my experience and perspective.
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Bobbi Beuree, Certified CAN Coach + Facilitator is located Nova Scotia and provides interactive 1:1 coaching services, as well as group coaching events.