Anticipatory anxiety: Definition, symptoms, coping, and more

The following tips may help people with anticipatory anxiety to reduce their fear and cope with uncertainty about the future:

Look after basic needs

Good self-care begins with taking care of basic needs.

  • Reduce sources of stress where possible.
  • Eat a balanced diet, and limit caffeine and sugar, which can make anxiety worse.
  • Exercise regularly, as research indicates it can reduce anxiety.

Sleep is another important area for those with anxiety. Individuals should try to get enough sleep by going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning.

However, anticipatory anxiety causes sleep disturbance and insomnia, and a lack of sleep worsens anxiety. Breathing exercises or meditation can help people fall asleep more easily. People struggling with chronic sleep disturbance should see a doctor if mindfulness activities do not help.

Practice relaxation and grounding

Techniques to help relaxation can reduce anxiety over time. They also improve sleep quality. Useful techniques include:

  • deep breathing
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • guided imagery
  • grounding techniques

People can learn more about these techniques from a therapist. There are also numerous apps or online videos that can help guide people through each process.

People should also note that these techniques are not a cure for anxiety. If a person uses them incorrectly, for example when they feel anxious, they can serve as avoidant coping.

Ideally, people should practice these exercises at certain scheduled times, rather than when they feel anxious. A healthcare professional can help a person mindfully incorporate relaxation techniques into cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy.


Journaling may help people to reduce anxiety and explore their fears and triggers. People with avoidance disorders should do this with the guidance of a trained mental health professional, as it could lead to rumination (dwelling on negative thoughts), or a compulsion that functions as avoidant coping.

Address negative thoughts

Changing a person’s thinking can help change their moods. People can do this by considering the source of the anxiety and the negative thoughts it produces.

Then, explore how realistic these thoughts are. Often, people with anxiety imagine the worst-case scenario. If they continue to challenge negative thoughts when they arise, these thoughts should become less frequent over time.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion — treating oneself with kindness and care in negative situations — may reduce anticipatory anxiety.

One way individuals can practice self-compassion is to explore how they might treat a friend who was having anticipatory anxiety. Often, people are kinder to others than they are to themselves. This exercise highlights the importance of self-compassion.

Find more self-compassion exercises here.

Take charge of the situation

As anticipatory anxiety occurs when people worry about a future event or situation, it can be helpful to take charge of the situation.

For example, if someone is anxious about a job interview, it may be helpful to practice answering interview questions with a friend or family member.

There are several natural ways of reducing anxiety. Learn about them here.