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7 Surprising Ways Anxiety Benefits Your Life

anxiety benefits

Anxiety benefits aren’t exactly something most people talk about. With such a bad rap, it isn’t hard to view anxiety as a hindrance that at its best must be tolerated.

And yet anxiety can be a positive force in our lives, sometimes a powerful one, especially when we choose to see it that way.  Just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s bad for us. Recognizing how anxiety can help can put us on a path to using it to our advantage; understanding these 7 anxiety benefits can help you harness anxiety next time you experience it.

  1. Anxiety means we care.

Like a highlighter pen for our highest priorities, anxiety helps remind us of the things that matter most to us. We worry because we care, not because we are crazy. Thinking about anxiety as a reflection of our top priorities can help us embrace it as a resource.

  1.  Anxiety helps us focus.

Current science suggests anxiety may have more to do with harnessing attention than fear, and in this way can be a huge help when it comes to managing our increasingly distracted attention.  We worry about the things we care about most, and anxiety can keep us focused on our top priorities even when

  1. Anxiety helps us maintains focus, especially when distractions beckon.

Distractions lurk seemingly around every corner these days. Increasing competition for our attention means it has never been easier to veer off track, and not surprisingly anxiety has become part of this picture.

A return to the beloved fable of the tortoise and the hare illustrates the advantage of anxiety to maintaining focus and effort as well.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare. Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.  –Aesops Fable

As executive coach, David Cottrell, notes in his article the real reason the tortoise beat the hare, distraction is deceptively dangerous.

“After all, if the hare had run straight to the finish line, it would have won. Perseverance would not have beaten speed in that case. But the hare was so consumed with its talent that it forgot to use that gift, diverted by the prospect of a soothing nap. The tortoise never got distracted: It focused on the finish line.”

  1. Anxiety fuels motivation and energy to find solutions.

Anxiety alerts us to potential threats to our priorities, and motivates us to find solutions. It keeps grabbing our attention and stirring our motivation to act until we find solutions. Can’t stop worrying about those taxes that need attention? You probably won’t until you get them done. This is your anxiety helping you stay on top of things that are important, even if you might not want to.

  1. Anxiety is uncomfortable for a reason.

Like an alarm clock that will snooze, but only turn off once we wake up and deal with turning it off, anxiety keeps hassling us to pay attention and tend to the problem at hand until we do. If we ignore it temporarily, or distract ourselves from it, it can suspend itself temporarily but will keep coming back until we face and use it to problem solve.

  1. Harnessing anxiety can be good for your brain.

Research shows that acute bouts of stress can help boost neural growth and memory. Stress hormones help us perform optimally and also learn from our experiences such that can do it again and with less effort. Like straining muscles and bones contribute to strength building, handling stress helps us get stronger and better at it.

  1. Believing anxiety is helpful makes it so.

Finally, how we think about anxiety actually defines how we experience it. Naming our emotions is a well-documented, powerful tool in gaining control of them. Simply defining that you are anxious and it is helping you stay on task can help keep your anxiety productive. Moreover, research shows that how we think about stress and anxiety can have a powerful influence on its overall impact.  According to science, if you believe you can handle it, you can.

Anxiety keeps us awake and alert to the things that matter to us, protecting us from distraction and complacency. We need anxiety to help us pay attention, and protect ourselves against threats, be they modern or age-old temptations.

Anxiety benefits are real when we choose to see them.

 

Looking for more help with anxiety? Check out my new book,Hack Your Anxiety, sign-up for book bonuses including afree mini-ecourse to help you understand how anxiety impacts your life and how to hack its most common challenges, or subscribe to my biweekly newsletter.

 

 

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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