‘Anxiety’ is a word weighing down under the heavy negative connotations and plethora of research reflecting on it. It is characterized as a feeling that is often intensely fear, worry, and apprehension provoking. Many individuals with anxiety describe it as a feeling of nervousness and dread that can be distracting at best and all-consuming at worst. Anxiety is typically experienced on many levels, affecting one’s emotions, leading to uncomfortable physical sensations, and contributing to negative thoughts.
However, have you ever considered some of the possible positive effects that may come with having anxiety?
To focus on positive anxiety, one needs to trace down its role in the evolutionary survival of humans. Fear is designed to keep you safe from danger. Anxiety is an adaptation of that vital and fundamental fear response. This notedly ensued in us to kick our flight and fight response; the one we needed to fight off the wild then quite literally and now in metaphorical terms. Sometimes anxiety will tell you that the worst is true (perhaps getting you to believe that everyone dislikes you or that someone is determined to harm you). However, paying attention to that uneasy feeling can help you stay connected to a sense of self-preservation. You can think of anxiety as an annoying friend with good intentions. This may help you learn when to take back the control to stop anxiety from dictating many of your thoughts and actions. You may start to notice your anxiety response sooner, allowing you to make conscious decisions about whether there is danger and how to best take care of yourself.
Further anxiety acts as a warning sign and makes you more vigilant. This vigilance gives an individual an edge over others and makes them better performers; as is true in the case of sportspersons, athletes, students as well as researchers. Motivation is triggered by anxiety too. Consider the times you’d sit and procrastinate until anxiety kicked in and motivated you to finish those assignments or work projects. Many people who have a form of anxiety are chronic overachievers. It often is used as a tool to help you push yourself to your limit of achievement. The downside however is that there are often negative meanings attached, such as not being good enough or not valuing rest. Oftentimes, anxious overachievers have difficulty saying no, trouble completing tasks to their liking or knowing which tasks to prioritize, and issues trusting or working with others. Using anxiety as a means to “motivate” yourself can only work to a certain extent. Looking at the amount you accomplish even with the negative pressure of anxiety, imagine how much more you could do if you felt focused, calm, and fulfilled by the tasks you accomplish. The key seemingly is to find a balance.
One reflects that in case a thought or situation causes anxiety repeatedly, your mind and body are likely trying to tell you there is something needing to be addressed. It may also give you a sense of what you truly care about and want to take action on, even if it may be difficult to do so. Anxiety can direct you to see that something about a situation is too important to ignore. Hence, many claims have been made that anxiety is a router to attention.
The energy that fuels anxious thoughts and behaviors is giving you what you need to take action and get unstuck. By not taking action, the energy is just getting bottled up inside you with nowhere to go but in circles. A mind spinning in circles or a body that fidgets or panics are stifling the energy of anxiety. Taking action can channel and alleviate that pressure, and the stress response can help you have the energy to do that. Hence anxiety makes you action-oriented if channelized in the correct manner.
Lastly, Anxiety helps you find direction and meaning in life, whatever that may be for you. It makes you focus on what matters. More so it guides you towards the sources of calm. Dealing with anxiety makes one understand themselves better. It also makes us empathetic towards the struggle of others.