• Andy Melton, PhD.

Anxiety: Pull Yourself Together

When Anticipation Becomes Stressful

Ever anticipated something so much that you can't stop thinking about it? For example, I'm a nerd-level Kansas City Chiefs fan. Yep, that's the team that won Super Bowl 54! Whenever I get tickets to see my favorite team, I can't hardly wait to arrive at the stadium and go crazy for a few hours. My anticipation for Chiefs games typically leads to daydreaming. In a sense, my mind separates from my body. Ever been there?

Anticipation can be fun, but it can also produce stress. Even in this moment, if you’re not present while reading this, you may find the experience a little taxing as your mind and body split their focus: your body in the present and your mind in the future.


Turns out there's a big difference between LOOKING AHEAD and LIVING AHEAD.


Separation of Mind/Body

What if my excitement for football games kept me from being present at work or with my family? What if I was more than just distracted? What if my anticipation became so strong that I became anxious or angry?


Anxiety is anything that takes you out of the present moment and keeps you stuck in the future. Attempting to live ahead by a few minutes, hours, or even days causes stress! Anxiety, worry, fear; It's all future oriented and keeps us stressed out.


Pulling Yourself Together

Sometimes your mind and body are separated and need to be reconnected. But how do you do it? Think of twirling a lasso over your head like a cowboy and throwing it forward around your future self.

Bringing ourselves back into the present can be described by the word grounding. Google the phrase grounding techniques and you will find all kinds of activities to help bring you back.


One way to reconnect your mind and body is to pay attention to your breathing. Try sitting up straight with both feet on the floor. With your right hand, pretend you’re drawing the four sides of a box in the air in front of you. Start by breathing in for 4 seconds (hand lifting), hold the breath for 4 seconds (hand drawing top of box), breathe out of 4 seconds (hand dropping), and rest or breathe normally for 4 seconds (hand drawing bottom of box). Repeat this 3 or 4 times. What I just described is called the 4-Second Breath Box. This is one of many techniques that can help to pull ourselves from the future and back into the present. Try it and see what you think.

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