The Snowless Snowstorm; How To Anticipate

While this week’s big east coast storm dumped snow in many places, here in Baltimore, we were prepared for upwards of 8 inches of snow and ended up with nothing. People flooded the grocery stores for milk and TP, clients rescheduled, school was cancelled, and as it turned out, it was all for rain. All the anticipation was for something much smaller and less consequential than expected.

In anxiety treatment, we talk a lot about anticipatory anxiety because it tortures people so….and often for an event that winds up being something like our snowless snowstorm. People spend so much time anticipating the way any certain event may go wrong that there is almost no way reality can live up to the imagined tragedy! Anticipatory Anxiety does a number of unhelpful things to its sufferers:

  • It makes living fully in the present moment nearly impossible.
  • It can make sufferers extremely sensitive and reactive to any physical experience of anxiety.
  • It can make connecting with God very difficult.
  • It can cause loss of sleep.
  • It builds a dysfunctional myth that anxiety does something useful for its sufferer.

In treatment, it becomes very important to talk about the experience of anticipating stressful events. And it is not helpful to convince clients that the snowstorm won’t have snow! The ability to convince ourselves something will go well is not the cure for anticipatory anxiety. Well-meaning friends all too often fall into this trap! Some more helpful skills to develop are:

  • Learning to allow anxious thoughts, but not drill into them.
  • Developing mindfulness and the ability to observe one’s own inner experiences.
  • Learning how to be prayerful without over-focusing on anxious thoughts.
  • Getting clear on what is and is not in your control, and learning what acceptance really means.

What of this connects with you? How does anticipatory anxiety negatively impact your quality of life? I hope you’ll share your thoughts.

4 comments


  • Lee

    Yup. You are right. Once again 🙂

    I think I’m giving up anticipatory anxiety at least for the rest of Lent!

    March 7, 2013
  • I really appreciate this Janice. Anticipating anxiety can truly limit our ability to function the way God intended us to and inhibits our ability to see what the event we are anxious about truly holds for our growth and fulfillment. Allowing ourselves to feel and embrace the discomfort brings us closer to what lies deep inside. If we are able to ‘experience’ those feelings and connect with the discomfort enough to let it speak to us, we will learn so much about ourselves. It can truly be a worthwhile experience.

    March 7, 2013
    • …and if I spelled “anticipatory” correctly…sheesh…spell check needs an anxiety check…lol
      Thanks again Janice…love reading your blog. So helpful in conjunction with my therapy. =)

      March 7, 2013
  • Danny

    wowow.. Nail on head! boom… Good words for marriage too. How often does a spouse (who shall remain nameless) share an angst, and a well intentioned husband (who shall remain nameless) tries to “sooth” the problem by saying how things will be “alright”.

    In my experience the angst storm is almost always worse than the event. And the worst events are often unexpected too. It just never seems to come true like you think it will.

    March 8, 2013

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