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swimshark
March 16th, 2013, 09:30 PM
I train to compete. I am fine in training most of the time but lately, the last year or so, my times in meets have gotten quite a bit slower and now I get so anxious before a race that I feel sick. Today I had a SCM meet here I only went to swim the 400 IM. I dry heaved in the corner until they were about to call my heat. How can I get past this? I;m working on getting faster in practice (I'm injured and coming off surgery) but slower in the meets is something that has been lingering and causing the anxiety. Help!

Nickel
March 16th, 2013, 11:04 PM
I know what you mean about getting so nervous. I dd it in high school and now as a Masters swimmer. For me, I have found I have to remind myself that I am out there competing against the clock and the heck with my place. I don't know if this helps other than knowing you aren't alone.

Allen Stark
March 17th, 2013, 01:48 AM
You have gotten into a self fulfilling prophesy where you expect to be anxious and you get anxious about that, etc.There are many ways out of that,but what doesn't work is to try not to be anxious.If you do that then what is on your mind is being anxious.
One thing that you can do is put it into perspective.In the grand scheme of things how you do at a swim meet is only as important as you say it is.Before every dive Greg Louganis said to himself"whatever happens,my mother still loves me."That was his way of putting it in perspective.
Getting everything into a routine helps.Do the same thing the same way for every swim.
Change how you contextualize the feelings.There is no physiologic difference between excitement and anxiety,let yourself be excited.When you feel that rush of feelings tell yourself you are getting really,really excited.
Visualize your race and when you have negative thoughts ,don't fight them, have them and then imagine yourself erasing them(that sounds hokie,but it really works.)
Swim a bunch of meets and swim "off events."Swim some events where you are experimenting:go out easy,go out hard,SDK more,SDK less,count your number of strokes,try to swim one fewer stroke on each length than the previous one,etc.The idea is to have something to focus on rather than how you feel.You are focused on time,swim some events where you just focus on what you learn.
Go find someone you like and talk to them until it is time to get on the blocks,tell some jokes,laugh,dance around a little(you need to keep loose anyway.)
Good luck and have fun.

swimshark
March 17th, 2013, 05:54 AM
Nickel, thanks. I always swim against the clock. Places don't matter as much since in a lot of my events I'm the only one. :)

Allen, thanks for the tips. I love the idea of thinking anxiety is energy instead. And you are so right about the cycle. I keep thinking "don't get anxious" and it makes it worse. I panic swim. Occasionally I do this during practice too but have learned to control it better. I need to learn that control in a meet. I have thought about doing "off" events but I have done them all now. As a distance person, I tried all sprints and still came out disappointed with my times which just lead to my anxiety as the meet went on. I have Zones in a month and so a month to get over this to start on the upward trend.

I have an excellent coach and I think we're going to sit down for a talk and see if that helps. Maybe I can even get him to come to Zones (he's an age group coach). Last time he did, I dropped 2 sec in the 100 IM.

Think calm, think calm...

swimshark
March 17th, 2013, 06:03 AM
..

Bill Sive
March 17th, 2013, 07:41 AM
Allen is very insightful and provided you with some good guidance. Also use your swim club members who are also attending meets with you to help you re-direct your thoughts. Cheer on your swim club members while they swim. Socialize and relax your mind.

It also helps to have someone like me around too. I am leaving shortly for a swim meet today on St. Patrick's Day. I will be in all green except for my gold sparkly sunglasses. Should be hilarious and get a good laugh from everyone. St. Patrick's Day with my green Jamaica swim briefs.

ElaineK
March 17th, 2013, 12:13 PM
Hey 'shark; it's been awhile! :wave: I read your post yesterday and held off responding to give it some thought, because I have been through it myself. In the end, much of what I was going to post was said by King Frog! But, it is what worked for me.

My leg muscle injuries really set me back in breaststroke and caused that same anxiety. And, my thoracic outlet syndrome makes breaststroke pull difficult to do in any quantity without fatigue. It was getting depressing watching times post up on the board at meets that were anywhere from 2-6 seconds (on 50's- 200's) off my usual times. But, there was nothing I could do; my legs just couldn't get the powerful kick that they used to be capable of getting and my arms can only do so much when constantly working in the forward position; even in recovery. :bitching:

So, I decided to do exactly as King Frog suggested: Try different events. I can't train breaststroke on consecutive days, so I decided to work on my backstroke and fly; strokes I could train comfortably. And, I remembered back to Nats., in 2010, when it was you who encouraged me to try 400 IM. Not only am I now racing that regularly; I'm "racing" :lmao: 200 fly and all the backstroke events! And, with my focus on backstroke in training (a stroke that my coach taught me how to swim; it used to be my worst), I am now consistently beating my coach in sprints during training. (Well, he is a distance freestyler and breaststroker...).

So, turn lemons into lemonade! You had surgery and it set you back. Is 400 IM the event that is causing you the most anxiety right now? Scratch it off your meet line-up the way I did with 200 breaststroke. Choose events that you haven't swum in the longest period of time. (Remember, you are in a different age group now, so your previous best times are in your past.)

Bill is right; hang around with a goofball at your next swim meet! I used to be withdrawn at meets to concentrate on my events. But, that just made me more nervous. Now, I joke around and socialize, sometimes making it to the block just in time to adjust my cap and goggles. I have had some of my best times then, because I was relaxed from laughing and the endorphins were kicked in from having fun with my friends.

In the end, this is MASTERS swimming, not college or the Olympics. It's for FUN! Hey, try this: Instead of going for best times, do what I did last year and enter a full slate of tough events and go for high points. Even when I swam the 200 fly and 400 IM in tortoise-like times, younger and much faster swimmers congratulated me and said they would NEVER enter those events! I ended up winning the Georgia Championship Series for high points in my age group, because of that strategy; not because I was the fastest swimmer. And, it was loads of fun not caring as much about the clock!

Remember why you are swimming (for fun!) and just work on your technique during a race, challenging yourself to stay relaxed, rather than worrying about the clock. Then, when you reach the wall, ask yourself if you accomplished that goal before you look at the clock.

'shark, you are an awesome swimmer; somebody I have looked up to since I first came on the Forums, three years ago. :cheerleader:

knelson
March 17th, 2013, 12:20 PM
Bill is right; hang around with a goofball at your next swim meet! I used to be withdrawn at meets to concentrate on my events. But, that just made me more nervous. Now, I joke around and socialize, sometimes making it to the block just in time to adjust my cap and goggles. I have had some of my best times then, because I was relaxed from laughing and the endorphins were kicked in from having fun with my friends.

I agree with this. Don't you envy those people who just show up at the block, have two seconds to put their cap on, then dive in a blow everyone out of the water?

After the London Olympics I read an interview with Usain Bolt where they were asking him about his pre-race routine. He says he doesn't even think about the race. He thinks about what he's going to do to relax after the Olympics are over. Easier said than done, of course.

ekw
March 17th, 2013, 12:22 PM
I have a lot of experience with anxiety, unfortunately. One thing I've noticed about being anxious is that my breathing gets shallow so I've learned some deep breathing exercises. Obviously you aren't going to pull out a yoga mat or do a full guided meditation on the pool deck but you can take a bit of the breathing skills from that and use it when you are feeling tense.

jim thornton
March 17th, 2013, 05:19 PM
You have gotten into a self fulfilling prophesy where you expect to be anxious and you get anxious about that, etc.There are many ways out of that,but what doesn't work is to try not to be anxious.If you do that then what is on your mind is being anxious.
One thing that you can do is put it into perspective.In the grand scheme of things how you do at a swim meet is only as important as you say it is.Before every dive Greg Louganis said to himself"whatever happens,my mother still loves me."That was his way of putting it in perspective.
Getting everything into a routine helps.Do the same thing the same way for every swim.
Change how you contextualize the feelings.There is no physiologic difference between excitement and anxiety,let yourself be excited.When you feel that rush of feelings tell yourself you are getting really,really excited.
Visualize your race and when you have negative thoughts ,don't fight them, have them and then imagine yourself erasing them(that sounds hokie,but it really works.)
Swim a bunch of meets and swim "off events."Swim some events where you are experimenting:go out easy,go out hard,SDK more,SDK less,count your number of strokes,try to swim one fewer stroke on each length than the previous one,etc.The idea is to have something to focus on rather than how you feel.You are focused on time,swim some events where you just focus on what you learn.
Go find someone you like and talk to them until it is time to get on the blocks,tell some jokes,laugh,dance around a little(you need to keep loose anyway.)
Good luck and have fun.

Great advice! how to read those people are seeing who wrote it. Allen, you should be a psychiatrist! swimming a lot of meets really does help, btw. also, as unpleasant have anxiety feels, perhaps it is your way of getting up for meets. Dr. J., or some other famous basketball player would get so nervous before every game thatt he would throw up. he finally acknowledge that this was just the way he got up for games, and afterwards it no longer bother him, though he continued to vomit on a regular basis.

Allen Stark
March 17th, 2013, 08:02 PM
Great advice! how to read those people are seeing who wrote it. Allen, you should be a psychiatrist! swimming a lot of meets really does help, btw. also, as unpleasant have anxiety feels, perhaps it is your way of getting up for meets. Dr. J., or some other famous basketball player would get so nervous before every game thatt he would throw up. he finally acknowledge that this was just the way he got up for games, and afterwards it no longer bother him, though he continued to vomit on a regular basis.
It was Bill Russell

That Guy
March 17th, 2013, 08:06 PM
Great advice! how to read those people are seeing who wrote it. Allen, you should be a psychiatrist! swimming a lot of meets really does help, btw. also, as unpleasant have anxiety feels, perhaps it is your way of getting up for meets. Dr. J., or some other famous basketball player would get so nervous before every game thatt he would throw up. he finally acknowledge that this was just the way he got up for games, and afterwards it no longer bother him, though he continued to vomit on a regular basis.
That would be Bill Russell. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2006/2006-02/2006-02-5217 One of my college teammates would vomit before big meets, like championship meets and rivalry dual meets. We actually took as a positive sign that he was psyched up and was about to have a big meet. So he'd puke on the pool deck and someone might yell, "Mazel tov!" :chug:

Adam Barley
March 17th, 2013, 11:20 PM
I have several different way off warding off pre-race anxiety: staying busy, having fun, talking to people, etc. And for me in particular, I get a lot of benefit from doing many meets. The more meets I swim the easier it is for me to relax in my swims and let my training come through.

But the most important thing I've found is to completely let go of the result before I swim the race. Good or bad, I'll still want to swim again.

swimshark
March 18th, 2013, 06:57 AM
Wow, thank you all. This advice helps and to know that others have been there and have gotten through this. One part that is hard for me is lack of coach and team mates. I train with age groupers. My coach, in 4 years with him, has only made it to warm-ups for 1 day of a meet for me. He's too busy with the kids and I understand that is part of who I train with. But I do hang out with some awesome people and try to get my mind off things. Jim, Fort, Muppet, and more are great to laugh and socialize with.

Elaine, I'm glad I inspired you to star an event that you wouldn't have normally. I like the idea of setting new times in my newer age group. That's a good goal to have and one that I feel I can handle.

I have Zones in a month and will try to think less about my times and more about how good it will feel to be done. I'm going to work on the breathing techniques (no, Jim, that doesn't mean covering my mouth and nose!).

Now to find someone to yell "Mazel Tov" for me right before my event :)

__steve__
March 18th, 2013, 08:46 AM
I get anxious and it's worse for my first heat but lightens up some as they go by, which probably explains why my times improve progressively throughout the day. The nerves concentrate right in the middle of my chest and I get dizzy. I've learned this is just adrenalin fueled mechanism and the dizzyness is from an improper breathing response.

I'm starting to control this response though, one (as mentioned earlier) is through breathing/relaxation exercises, then I try to tune the nervous energy into some form of visual order. Another important key is to drill all the race specifics at practice (course respective turn, start, breathing) months prior so I don't have to think when it's time to go cuz there's nothing to worry about. I also might enter a non target event for "fun" with a forgiving seed.

Preparation, relaxation, and fun is my anti-anxiety strategy and it seems to be helping

Are relays less stressful for you?

Atlantic
March 18th, 2013, 04:37 PM
I can relate completely. I have dry heaved in the morning before a meet and my stomach goes bonkers at every meet I have attended as a Masters swimmer. I also had surgery last year... and now this year... I had been really looking forward to my first meet "back" for the longest time and then the night before - I was on the verge of vomiting and had to go to bed early to calm myself down. I agree with the above posts - get out there and talk, find a goofball or be the goofball, stay in the warmup lanes longer, get in a very warm shower before your event, get some awesome tunes on your ipod and jam, work on some slow breathing to calm yourself (breathe in thru your nose and out thru your mouth), meditation... find what works for you. Just keep reminding yourself that you are still recovering and give yourself some time to get thru this. You'll find your groove again, no worries. :)

Chris Stevenson
March 18th, 2013, 05:01 PM
Wow, I didn't realize you were going thru this; my sympathies, it doesn't sound like very much fun. I have been having the opposite problem the last couple of years -- having trouble getting "up" enough for races -- and I wish we could average our two responses, we might both swim faster! :-)

A certain amount of anxiety is a good thing of course (arguably I am "suffering" from its lack right now) but obviously not too much. I guess back when I was more anxious about races I basically focused on the fact that I love the journey -- training, being fit, socializing with other masters swimmers -- as much as the racing, so even if the race doesn't turn out the way I hope there is still a lot to be happy about.

It sounds to me like you've done all the necessary training; lots of good ideas on this thread, I especially like Adam's. I also really like the idea of doing off events for awhile, you'll retain the racing experience and get to hang out with friends but swim in non-threatening events. Back when I was in college, in dual meets I was often put in the 200 free and I loved it because it wasn't one of my "real" events, I could even play around with different race strategies without worrying about the effect on my time. And yet because I was relaxed about the outcome I tended to do pretty well.

I've heard that there are two types of ways of preparing mentally for races (I'm sure there is more than that): one is to visualize success in lots of detail and concentrate on what it will feel like to achieve it, and another is to visualize failure and think about doing all you can to avoid it. I am definitely in the former camp but I've heard of successful athletes who do the latter (I think I remember reading that Rowdy Gaines was like this). Put crudely, there are some athletes who swim to win and others who swim to avoid losing.

swimshark
March 18th, 2013, 08:12 PM
Thank you all for the responses. I am reading them all and taking them all in. Atlantic, sorry you are dealing with recovery as well. I just finished an hour of physical therapy today on my leg and couldn't imagine swimming right now so I guess I haven't come back yet. I hope your come back swims are great.

Steve, no, I don't get nervous before relays. I usually get excited and talk with people around me. I try to do that before individual events as well but not enough, it sounds like. Next meet will have 2 of my former age group team mates timing. Having them there will help me relax a bit more.

Chris, if only I had your speed along with your relaxation. Maybe you can rub off on me at Zones :) I like the idea of swimming to avoid losing. That might be the push I need.

Again, thanks all. I mentioned to one of my coaches that I was too anxious to swim well and he couldn't believe it since I had done that event, the 400 IM in practice on Monday and did well. But that was practice. Very few there to impress, watch, etc.

swimshark
April 19th, 2013, 08:07 PM
Progress!! I swam the 1000 today in our Zones meet. I stayed relaxed as much as I could before my event. I have to say my time was way, way off, way off. But I didn't panic, I didn't have anxiety before the race. So now I feel better about that and I'll work on getting my speed back. Tomorrow and Sunday are longer days but they should be more fun as well.

ElaineK
April 19th, 2013, 09:11 PM
Progress!! I swam the 1000 today in our Zones meet. I stayed relaxed as much as I could before my event. I have to say my time was way, way off, way off. But I didn't panic, I didn't have anxiety before the race. So now I feel better about that and I'll work on getting my speed back. Tomorrow and Sunday are longer days but they should be more fun as well.

Excellent! :applaud: It sounds like you are well on your way to getting your old 'shark back! :D

rxleakem
April 19th, 2013, 10:06 PM
Progress!! I swam the 1000 today in our Zones meet. I stayed relaxed as much as I could before my event. I have to say my time was way, way off, way off. But I didn't panic, I didn't have anxiety before the race. So now I feel better about that and I'll work on getting my speed back. Tomorrow and Sunday are longer days but they should be more fun as well.
"The times, they are a changing "
Rock on, SS!

swimshark
April 20th, 2013, 05:56 AM
Thank you to you both. Now to get my speed "shark" back on :)

lv2swim
April 21st, 2013, 08:24 AM
Thank you Swimshark for starting this thread! It is anxiety that kept me away from Zones. And I'm bummed because I'd really rather be there watching everyone swim and swimming too! When I was younger I can remember only one time being anxious the rest of the time it was all for the love of swimming that I raced. I swam in Lexington last month and was so anxious before and bummed after that I couldn't bring myself to sign up for zones though I really wanted to go. So after reading though this thread yet again and hearing how good you feel I am going to try to enter as many local meets as I can this summer to get over this craziness.

BTW I swim with Cy T/Th in the lanes next to you that is if you swim early and on my own MWF. Oh my son Thom use to swim with you.

Have a great swim today!

ElaineK
April 21st, 2013, 12:22 PM
Thank you Swimshark for starting this thread! It is anxiety that kept me away from Zones. And I'm bummed because I'd really rather be there watching everyone swim and swimming too! When I was younger I can remember only one time being anxious the rest of the time it was all for the love of swimming that I raced. I swam in Lexington last month and was so anxious before and bummed after that I couldn't bring myself to sign up for zones though I really wanted to go. So after reading though this thread yet again and hearing how good you feel I am going to try to enter as many local meets as I can this summer to get over this craziness.

BTW I swim with Cy T/Th in the lanes next to you that is if you swim early and on my own MWF. Oh my son Thom use to swim with you.

Have a great swim today!

I can tell you from my experience that your strategy for meets works! Repetition cures anxiety for me. It worked with public speaking and it worked when I was a USMS newbie. To take it a step further, I spent all of 2012 swimming a variety of new events and pushing the envelope by signing up for the hardest/ longest events all in one meet, as well as relays. Yes, it hurt my breaststroke times not swimming just the three breaststroke events at each meet, but it built confidence knowing I could tackle 200m fly, 400m IM, and, last weekend, the 1650. I also tackled swimming long distance fly to prove to myself I could race 200m fly, even if it isn't fast. Every time I get up on the blocks for 200 fly, I tell myself, "If you can swim 2,000 yards fly, you can swim 200 fly. Just relax and swim with your best technique..."

Now, I rarely have the kind of anxiety I used to have at meets. And, I have a lot of fun!

Good luck this summer! :cheerleader:

swimshark
April 22nd, 2013, 07:45 AM
Thank you Swimshark for starting this thread! It is anxiety that kept me away from Zones. And I'm bummed because I'd really rather be there watching everyone swim and swimming too! When I was younger I can remember only one time being anxious the rest of the time it was all for the love of swimming that I raced. I swam in Lexington last month and was so anxious before and bummed after that I couldn't bring myself to sign up for zones though I really wanted to go. So after reading though this thread yet again and hearing how good you feel I am going to try to enter as many local meets as I can this summer to get over this craziness.

BTW I swim with Cy T/Th in the lanes next to you that is if you swim early and on my own MWF. Oh my son Thom use to swim with you.

Have a great swim today!

I'm so glad this post inspired you!! That alone makes the anxiety all worth it. I can't wait to see you get back in the water and compete again. My swims this weekend weren't great by any stretch but they were anxiety-free and that was an accomplishment. In fact, I can say that this was the most fun I've had at a meet in a long time because I made it about fun and not my times. I hear Cy is trying for a LC meet this Aug. I hope it happens and we can swim together. I will be at the pool tomorrow so I'll see you bright and early (but sore and slow ater this weekend!)

Elaine, way to go girl!! Keep it up.

lv2swim
April 22nd, 2013, 08:33 PM
Thank you for your insight Elaine! I have read many of your posts over the last year or so and am encouraged by your many accomplishments. I am thinking of the 200 fly and 400 IM but definately not 2,000 yds of fly...that's just crazy. Now I just need to find meets for the summer.

swimshark
April 23rd, 2013, 07:43 AM
Thank you for your insight Elaine! I have read many of your posts over the last year or so and am encouraged by your many accomplishments. I am thinking of the 200 fly and 400 IM but definately not 2,000 yds of fly...that's just crazy. Now I just need to find meets for the summer.

400 IM!! Do it :)

ElaineK
April 23rd, 2013, 07:29 PM
Thank you for your insight Elaine! I have read many of your posts over the last year or so and am encouraged by your many accomplishments. I am thinking of the 200 fly and 400 IM but definately not 2,000 yds of fly...that's just crazy. Now I just need to find meets for the summer.

Thanks 'swim! You made my day!! :agree: Funny you should mention that swimming 2,000 yds of fly is "just crazy", because I am wearing my Butternuts shirt right now. :ohyeah: Anyway, I am glad my posts have encouraged you! I agree with swimshark, go for the 400 IM. And, go for 200 fly, too! :cheerleader:

greenjeans11
April 23rd, 2013, 09:17 PM
Congratulations! I'm glad you're learning to relax. I can't remember if gou're on a team. if you are, practicing races, even short ones, might give you some more positive experiences before your next meet. I also try listening to calming music, if you have an iPod. I get really anxious before long races, though I like doing them the best.

I happen to be a shrink in my other life. The breathing advice you got was good advice. Anxious folks tend to hold their breaths which increases anxiety. The exhale matters the most. One good way to exhale is to stand and lower your torso and head, exhale fully, then slowly lift up, head last. I hope that made sense. The other thing is to just move around, walk, stretch a little. Sitting still can increase anxiety for folks like you and me.
Regards, Debra

swimshark
April 24th, 2013, 07:46 AM
Congratulations! I'm glad you're learning to relax. I can't remember if gou're on a team. if you are, practicing races, even short ones, might give you some more positive experiences before your next meet. I also try listening to calming music, if you have an iPod. I get really anxious before long races, though I like doing them the best.

I happen to be a shrink in my other life. The breathing advice you got was good advice. Anxious folks tend to hold their breaths which increases anxiety. The exhale matters the most. One good way to exhale is to stand and lower your torso and head, exhale fully, then slowly lift up, head last. I hope that made sense. The other thing is to just move around, walk, stretch a little. Sitting still can increase anxiety for folks like you and me.
Regards, Debra

Thanks Debra. I did, before some races this last meet, do some deep breathing which seemed to help. And I can picture the breathing you are talking about as well. I do swim on a team but it's an age group team so my coach is not at masters meets. There are times when I really wish he were there to help me. He seems to calm me a lot and help me get ready (he has made it to 1 of my meets in 4 years). He and I talked about finding the middle ground of not being too anxious and not being too calm, like I was before the 1000. It's a work in progress with a positive end in sight :)

Why Not
April 24th, 2013, 08:53 AM
Did not read the whole thread but what also could work for you is (perhaps temporariliy) lower your goals. The symptoms you describe in your openingpst often come from a to high standard in goals which you can not meet.
Also be sure your timegoals are aligned with your taskgoals in training.

swimshark
April 24th, 2013, 10:29 AM
Did not read the whole thread but what also could work for you is (perhaps temporariliy) lower your goals. The symptoms you describe in your openingpst often come from a to high standard in goals which you can not meet.
Also be sure your timegoals are aligned with your taskgoals in training.

Excellent point. I have recently learned to be okay with not hitting a personal best every time I dive in. Upon that realization, I had a lot more fun at the last meet.

moodyrichardson
May 3rd, 2013, 09:45 AM
I suffer from anxiety disorder, so meets are always hard for me. BUT I'm always SO Happy when I've completed them! My husband really put it in perspective for me. He asked me, "what's the worst that's going to happen? So, you're times are going to be slower. Big deal. Go out there and have fun!" I have a great team! We always say that we do the meets, so we can go to dinner afterwards. That team attitude has helped me tremendously! Good luck! I truly know how hard it is.

swimshark
May 3rd, 2013, 02:49 PM
Moody, I love that attitude. I finally caught on to that this last meet and didn't get as upset after each race. Made it a much more enjoyable time.

sok454
May 6th, 2013, 03:32 PM
After having swam 2 meets in my Masters career I have come to the conclusion I tighten way up during the races (sprints) and it kills me. An example is the week before State last weekend I felt great in the water, fast, smooth and no wasted effort... Now come to the meet I swim my 50 fr... and yes I dropped almost 1.5 secs off but I felt so tight and like I was working against my body. The same happened in the back... dropped 1.7 but still felt tight. By the time I got to the 100 IM I almost drowned on the FR portion as I was so tense and unable to engage my legs/shoulders.
What annoys me is I can understand my first meet in 26-7 years in March having nerves... but not a month and half later... probably just being to hard on myself... but it does suck to get tense and feel everything go to the crapper.

moodyrichardson
May 6th, 2013, 03:43 PM
I get anxious, before every meet. Come and see me at Nationals this weekend. It will be anxiety on parade!!:) I have to laugh. It keeps me sane!