A New View on Anxiety
When people talk about anxiety it is often painted as problematic, overwhelming and something that you want to immediately manage or get rid of. It is true that at times one can experience anxiety in a disproportionate manner, but I feel like it is time that we discuss how anxiety can be beneficial for us.
The more therapeutic work (and research) that I do, the more I have discovered that there are many ways that anxiety is helpful. I am going to let you know how and why I see anxiety as an incredibly valuable emotion.
We are naturally wired to have anxiety. The limbic system has been called the “primitive brain.” This system has the main function of survival. It is in charge of initiating fight-or-flight, which is our innate ability to react quickly in stressful situations. Through out history we have read about different ways that anxiety and stressors have assisted us in seeking out innovation and progressing as mankind. Some may say that anxiety is what allowed us to evolve to the humans that we are today.
Anxiety can provide us protection, like when you’re stopped at a stoplight and you see the light is about to change in the opposite direction and the approaching car is not slowing, your natural instincts will help you wait to proceed until the coast is clear. Anxiety can increase our attention. It can help us become more aware our surroundings and increases our focus. It can help us with preparation. I bet you remember having to give speech in class and getting butterflies in your stomach. That feeling often motivates you to be prepared. Which is another way anxiety can be helpful, it can motivate us. We will follow the speed limits or the rules as work because we may be fearful of getting a ticket or getting fired.
Anxiety can also assist us with discernment. If you are thinking about buying a house or changing jobs, it can help assess the risk and make a well thought out choice. One’s ability to show empathy towards others can also improve with anxiety. It is easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be able to provide a listening ear or support to someone who is experiencing difficult emotions (because hey, you’ve been there too!). The most important way that anxiety is helpful is that it facilitates communication in our bodies. We are able to identify if something is stressful or important to us. It can highlight our values and help us to gain insight. It also can encourage us to verbally communicate with others, which allows us to invest in important relationships.
Anxiety (fear) is one of our primary emotions, meaning it is here to stay. It is important to accept that we will experience anxiety at times. My hope is that highlighting the ways in which anxiety can be helpful will assist you in welcoming anxiety on your journey, along side other easier to welcome emotions (joy, creativity, etc). If you feel like you experience anxiety in a manner that is difficult to manage please contact me (or another professional) for an assessment. Working together you can reap all the benefits of anxiety and maintain a sense of control over anxiety.
This post was created with the help of the following articles: