Listening to Anxiety

A lot of the time if you’re feeling anxious, it’s a really good thing. Anxiety motivates you to take action. Anxiety says “hey, something bad is going to happen, do something about it!”

Your body has evolved to figure out when something bad is going to happen. It’s pretty good at warning you. I’d argue that depending on how you look at it, a lot of what we do is motivated by some level of anxiety, or at least avoiding the feeling of anxiety.

Why do I look at what I wear before putting it on? I worry I’d put on red trousers with a polka dot shirt if I didn’t look first.

Why do I lock the door when I leave my house? Because if I didn’t I’d worry someone would break in.

All these things are bad things that could happen to me if I don’t take action. So I listen to the worst case scenarios in my head and it tends to work out well. But sometimes it doesn’t.

When To Deal With Anxiety

The way psychologists often determine whether anxiety is a problem is based on a couple of factors:

1)      Is it distressing to you?

a.       If so, then perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

2)      Is it causing impairment?

a.       If it’s stopping you from doing things you want to do then perhaps it’s time to do something about it.

When To Listen To Anxiety

Clearly though, feeling anxious isn’t always a bad thing or something you need to address. A great example to illustrate this concept is with spiders. Many people are afraid of spiders. But that doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it. As long as you can live life the way you want to, then fear of spiders isn’t really a big problem. If you can’t go into your home because maybe there’s a spider present, then perhaps that’s when it becomes time to do something about it.

If I am very anxious about flying that doesn’t mean it’s a problem I should do anything about. If I can’t ever see my family because I’m too afraid to fly, perhaps that’s a problem. But even then, maybe not. Maybe my family can just come to me, or maybe I am perfectly content not to see them.

Hopefully you can see that it’s important to judge anxiety in it’s own context. I write this because I want to normalize the experience that many of us have in our day to day lives. I hear too many people judge their experience of anxiety as a bad thing. It makes me want to really question that assumption.

I’ll end with this. If you have anxiety that is really affecting your life, especially if it’s stopping you from doing what you want, then consider dealing with it. Otherwise, it’s totally ok to feel anxious, and listen to that feeling by acting on it. Your body often has your best interests at heart.



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