Anxiety is often talked about as a bad thing. It’s not.
Anxiety is simply a state that occurs in response to an anticipated threat, like having to give a presentation in 2 days. A person has i) physical reactions, such as muscle tension or nausea, ii) mental reactions, such as worried thoughts, and iii) urges, to act on this information. That all sounds so crappy. BUT WAIT…. If you feel like that you’re way more likely to do the preparation needed to kick butt on your presentation! Anxiety is our brain’s weapon to cope ahead of time and mitigate this anticipated threat. Every night I check my phone alarm to make sure it’s set, due to my worry that I will be late for work. I double-check my writing to make sure I don’t make mistakes that I worry will be embarrassing. You won’t find basic speeeling mistakes on this page. Ooops.
If you didn’t have anxiety you would fail at basically everything in life (but I guess on the bright side, at least that wouldn’t worry you!). You wouldn’t ever meet deadlines, leave on time for things, or care how you present yourself. It’s our evolutionary safety net to think ahead about what could happen, and prepare accordingly. It keeps you alive.
Anxiety is an activating agent, an innate Red Bull if you will, that helps someone achieve his or her goals. When I’m at home in the evening waiting for my wife to come home, I get worried about what she will say if I don’t have dinner ready. As such I become motivated to cook her something. What a good husband!
As with anything, too much anxiety can be a bad thing of course. Problematic anxiety occurs in particular when it interferes with functioning or causes a ton of distress. Like if I want to make friends but I feel too worried about what others think to allow myself to go out. Or if I care so much about my grades that I stay up every night perfecting my work to the point that I have no life, that’s also a problem.
It’s a bit of a judgment call on whether anxiety is problematic, everyone’s levels vary. If you are not sure you can talk with professionals or complete questionnaires to get a sense of where you are. For example, being afraid of spiders in my house isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it doesn’t really bother me or get in my way. If I won’t walk on grass for fear of stepping on a spider, that might well be a problem for someone like me who likes being outside.
In summary, all I’m saying is that anxiety is not always a bad guy. It has the best intentions for you, and like a child trying to help you do the chores it can sometimes create more problems than it solves. But for the most part it should be appreciated!
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