5 Ways Anxiety Can Actually Be Helpful
Nearly 40 million people in the US struggle with anxiety each year. With social media, work, friends and family, it seems there’s always something to worry about. It’s a normal part of life to experience anxiety but when it starts to interfere with your day to day life, this is when it’s time to do something about it. Whether it’s mindfulness techniques, therapy or medication, we are constantly looking for ways to get rid of our anxiety. But what if we told you there’s another way?
Anxiety has a bad reputation (and rightfully so). It makes us nervous and unable to relax. It can cause physical sensations like an elevated heart rate or an upset stomach. With all these negative effects…is it possible to befriend our anxiety? Let’s dive in a little further.
Anxiety is that signal to our brain that tells you you’re scared or worried. Of course everyone will go through life experiencing fear and worry at some point(s). This is normal. But when it’s constant or the severity of anxiety is out of proportion with the trigger, it’s time to start paying closer attention to your anxiety.
Reinterpreting anxious thoughts
Anxiety is a vague signal that makes you think and feel something is going to happen and you must take action. It’s deciding what this action will be that typically causes a big part of the anxiety. For example, you’re worried about a job interview and you think you’re going to blow it. The reason might be because you’re not feeling confident in your life right now or it’s based off of past interviews you’ve had. You might even take it so far as to cancel the interview due to these anxious thoughts. This is a situation where it’s time to reinterpret those thoughts. Especially if those thoughts are leading to an unnecessary action.
Instead of allowing those anxious thoughts to make you cancel that interview, let them fuel your interview. Do your research and prep for that interview to the best of your ability. So that way you know that when it’s over, you gave it your all. And if you don’t get the job, it’s not because you failed, it’s because there’s another candidate who was a better fit. Certainly there’s another job out there for you and this simply just wasn’t the one. You don’t need to marry someone after one date, right? Same goes for the interview process.
Noticing important things you might not have before
Anxiety can actually be beneficial when it helps you notice things you might not have otherwise. For example, being anxious about giving a presentation at work. You’ve been obsessing over it for weeks and end up finding a last minute mistake before the big presentation. If you weren’t so worried about that presentation, you might not have found the mistake. We aren’t promoting getting worked up over one presentation but some people work even better under pressure. And this is an example of where that can be beneficial.
Many successful professionals can reinterpret those anxious thoughts to enhance productivity, attention, and task completion. Who knew anxiety could be helpful in the workplace?
Figuring out what drives you
Like we mentioned earlier, anxiety can drive many of our decisions. Now we need to decide if we’re going to let it. Is it driving us to make good decisions? Like the examples of working well under pressure in the workplace. Or will it lead us to make poor decisions and hold us back due to worry and fear?
The answer to these might not be clear right away. You’ll likely have to do some deep diving into what truly motivates you and what gets in the way of you moving forward. If you figure out that anxiety (at least in certain situations) drives you, then try to find the positive ways it can benefit your life. Because having anxiety is one thing but when your anxiety fuels more anxiety, it can lead to much larger problems. So when you can have a more positive outlook on these worrisome thoughts, it will keep your anxiety in check and not lead to more unnecessary worry.
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The path to discovering your true (and best) self
Does this path start with anxiety? Perhaps. When anxiety is at bay, we tend to let it be and not do much about it. When it’s sky high and seems to be the only thing we can focus on, of course we’re going to want it to go away. We’ll try things like yoga, meditation and mindfulness and hope we can find some peace. However, when you dive into these practices, the mind opens up to a whole new place.
The point of these practices is to turn inward and focus on the present. Particularly to be hyper aware of both yourself and your surroundings. When your mind is able to do this (as it does take practice!) you might starting thinking about things differently. Therefore shifting your perspective and reassessing your thoughts and decisions. Consequently, you might discover things about yourself you never knew before. This awareness can help you truly live in the present. When previously, anxiety made you dwell on the past and fear the future.
Befriending your anxiety
Instead of trying to ignore or get rid of your anxiety, it’s time to think of anxiety as a friend. We like our friends to be around, but sometimes they linger too long and you can become agitated. Anxiety will come and go, just like friends. But you have the power to say who stays and who goes.
Sometimes it takes being at a low point in life to realize you need to make some changes. Although change is scary, you never know the good that can come of it unless you try. When you bring mindfulness practices into your life, you might just be able to finally befriend your anxiety.
Chances are that we’ll never be able to get rid of anxiety completely. So when you can put a new spin on it, it may help you learn to befriend your anxiety. Remember, it’s simply an alert…but it’s up to you how you will interpret it (in a positive or negative way).
Understandably, no one wants to live with crippling anxiety for the rest of their lives. But when you can accept that it’s part of who you are and try to find the silver lining, you’ll be able to maintain or lessen than anxiety. That way it doesn’t spiral out of control. However, if it’s something you continue to struggle with, there are several techniques to help you cope.
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Are you struggling with anxiety? Are worried thoughts interfering with your day to day life? Schedule an appointment with one of our therapists today.