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Using Anxiety for Good

People tend to view anxiety as a nuisance at best, and a menace at worst. Anxiety disorders are often debilitating. They wreak havoc on our self-esteem, personal relationships, work-life, and inner peace. They can cause physical symptoms that are so painful that many who experience them end up in emergency rooms.


Many victims of anxiety must take the medication to fly, drive, or even go outside. Given all of this evidence, it seems strange to claim that anxiety can be used for good. How may this work in practice, and what are the best ways to start seeing our anxiety as a driver for change? Read ahead for some insight and top tips.


Anxiety is a Sign of Caring

If you didn’t feel any anxiety at all, then you wouldn’t care about anything. We feel anxious because deep down, we want to be loved and accepted. If there is a situation in which we feel others may be judging us, we worry about how we are going to perform, or whether we may embarrass ourselves. But underneath these feelings of panic are a deep desire to have others believe we are o.k.


This is why it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have some degree of anxiety. A small level of anxiety can help us become better workers, more attuned spouses, and better prepared. It also shows that we have a conscience. It is only when anxiety becomes out of control and when we start having panic attacks about everyday things that it’s time to do something. And that’s why we must take control of our anxiety and change our perspective on what it means. Here’s how to do that.


1. See Anxiety as a Resource

Your anxiety is a physical response rooted in evolution and normal human behavior. Anxiety tells us that something is wrong, either externally or internally. Start viewing anxiety as a resource to help you figure out what’s going on in your life.


It’s important to note that we may falsely attribute a feeling of anxiety to the wrong cause. If, for example, you become anxious during a traffic jam, you may think you are anxious because the road is busy and you are late for work. But if you dig deep, you may recognize that the root cause is feeling overwhelmed and overworked.


2. Fix Whatever Needs to Be Fixed

Anxiety can teach us that something in our life needs to be fixed. It is saying, “Hey, I’ll go away as soon as you get rid of X, Y, and Z.” Sometimes it’s impossible to know exactly what the root cause. The best place to start is to slow down and cut out unnecessary activities. This will at least help you get enough mental space to recharge and think things through clearly.


If you view anxiety as a voice telling you that something is wrong, you’ll start seeing it less negatively. If you act on what is wrong and fix it as soon as possible, you know that the anxiety will probably dissipate. Sometimes, this isn’t always the case. We can suffer from anxiety due to childhood traumas and unresolved issues. However, we can still work with a therapist to overcome those issues and learn to cope more effectively so we can relinquish the anxiety.


3. View Anxiety as Excitement

Anxiety and excitement are very similar, except in the way our brain interprets the situation. If you have a new job and you feel anxious about it, you may actually be somewhat excited. Changing our negative thought patterns into more realistic, positive ones can be enormously beneficial to altering our perspective on fear. Once we start seeing a lot of anticipatory anxiety as excitement, we can learn to see anxiety in a less threatening way.


4. Use Anxiety as Motivation

A lot of anxiety stems from feeling unprepared, or from procrastination. We may become so anxious about a situation that we are paralyzed and unable to act. However, as soon as we begin preparing or acting on the situation, the anxiety dissipates.


Let’s say you have a paper due in 3 weeks. You can either become so anxious about it that you decide to put it off for 3 weeks (which in turn makes the anxiety worse once it is finally due). Or, you can use that anxiety to prepare each night and chip away at the paper, which then relinquishes the anxiety.


5. Anxiety is a Sign of Creativity

Anxious individuals tend to be very insightful, intelligent individuals. We know this because anxiety is a result of overthinking situations. When you overthink a situation, you use the same skills that a person may use to goal set, strategize, tell a story, or paint something. Anxiety is simply a darker version of one of the best things about being human – our creativity.


If we learn to turn our anxiety outwards, we can accomplish great things. If we turn it inwards, we can make ourselves sick with worry and overthinking. Start using meditation or positive thinking to turn anxious thoughts off and to focus our attention on the present moment, where we can be creative.


Do you struggle with anxiety and depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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