Anxiety is the feeling of fear, nervousness or unease about a certain situation or outcome. We often look at anxiety from a negative perspective, but did you know that there are a number of benefits that having anxiety brings? In fact, without it, we might find ourselves in some sticky situations!
Isn't Anxiety a bad thing?
Yes and no – it can it depends on how much and how often you’re anxious. When people say the term ‘anxiety’, we usually look at it from a Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) perspective.
GAD is long-term or chronic anxiety, which focuses on a number of wider issues rather than a particular event. Often, this can lead to feeling anxious most days over multiple things and can severely impact one’s day-to-day life.
Symptoms of GAD include:
- Feeling constantly worried or obsessing over concerns
- Feeling like something bad is going to happen with little reason
- Distress when making decisions
- Having difficulties concentrating or finishing tasks
- Trouble sleeping or exhaustion from worry
- Dizziness/feeling faint
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent headaches
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What is ‘good’ anxiety?
Before we delve into ‘good’ anxiety, let’s take a quick look at a similar feeling, stress. When it comes to stress, having a small amount once in a while isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, good stress has a real name and is known as eustress.
Eustress is is the type of stress we get that relates to positive outcomes such as starting a new job, being on a rollercoaster or going on a first date!
With eustress, we encounter similar emotions or physical symptoms of anxiety, but instead of fear, we are met with excitement or anticipation. This can help with feeling excited for life and motivated.
Anxiety is very alike in this way and from it, we can it can help drive us and protect us too!
1. Protecting yourself
It’s human instinct to have feelings of fear to protect us from danger. Anxiety is an adaptation of this, which instigates our ancestral fight or flight response when we are wary about a situation. Listening to your gut can sometimes be the right thing to do to avoid an accident or harm, as well as retaining self-preservation.
2. Fuelling motivation
It’s easy at times to lose motivation in life, however anxiety has the benefit of increasing motivation in the face of adversity. Anxiety can help push us to strive for better and achieve more in aspects of our lives. In fact, research has shown that students and athletes who experienced some anxiety displayed improved performance on tests or while participating in competitive sports!
3. Taking action
You know that niggling feeling in the back of your mind, constantly reminding you to do something about a certain event? That’s anxiety telling you to take action! Anxiety can be a driver for us to become more self-aware about ourselves and remedy the situation. It’s possible to ignore or become distracted from the issue, but usually these thoughts come back until we have done something to solve them properly.
This could be as small as doing some homework to reassessing our relationships or careers!
4. Character development
It is thought that those with anxiety are naturally more empathetic towards other people’s feelings and emotions. This may be due to having personal struggles themselves and understanding on a deeper level what others may be going through. In the workplace, those with anxiety are usually better critical thinkers, analysers and possess strong leadership abilities. This may be down to the ability to assess and explore all possible situations, building mental and emotional intelligence.
5. Pleasant surprises
A common trait with anxiety is the ability to jump to conclusions or catastrophise about the worst possible outcome. This also means however, that we can often be pleasantly surprised when something is easier or not as daunting as we first imagined! It’s important to remember these moments to help build resilience in future.
If your anxiety does seem to be constant or you are struggling day to day, don’t be afraid to talk it through with someone. Our support and advice helplines can be found here.
Having an anxiety disorder can be difficult to manage at times, but if we are able to harness it we can use it for the better! Next time you feel anxious, try and take a moment to reflect on what your anxiety is trying to tell you and how you can learn from it to become a more resilient you.