You Can Let Yourself Be Anxious (Why It's Okay)

Thursday, April 27 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

You can let yourself be anxious even though your goal is to reduce anxiety. Here are several reasons why allowing yourself to be anxious is mentally healthy.

It's truly okay to let yourself be anxious. Why? Because sometimes we all just need to allow ourselves to feel how we feel, to be okay with anxious thoughts (Letting Someone with Mental Illness Be Upset). It's even okay to express those anxious feelings. The key is how much we let ourselves be anxious.

To be sure, most people want to not just manage anxiety (which is very important to do) but to completely get rid of anxiety (realistically, anxiety is a normal human emotion that has a purpose, so it's impossible to get rid of it fully -- yet we can get rid of all of that excessive, life-limiting anxiety). If the goal is to reduce the amount of time we feel anxious, why in the world would we let ourselves feel anxious?

Does letting ourselves be anxious set us back? Not necessarily.

It's Healthy to Let Yourself Be Anxious

Letting ourselves feel anxious from time to time is actually good for our mental health and wellbeing because it

  • allows you to acknowledge, rather than deny, anxiety
  • lets you increase your acceptance of anxiety, which helps you stop fighting it (because when we fight anxiety, our focus is on anxiety)
  • provides the opportunity to vent and release feelings
  • helps you stop beating yourself up for being anxious (resisting something inside of you sends you the subconscious message that you are "bad" or need fixing)
  • similar to the above, letting yourself be anxious helps you separate yourself from your anxiety; anxiety isn't who you are, it's a feeling and group of thoughts and behaviors that you're experiencing.
  • is a form of self-acceptance, of self-kindness, and self-care (notice the "selfs" -- this is about you rather than anxiety)

Let Yourself Be Anxious, But Don't Get Stuck

It is indeed healthy to let yourself feel what you feel. Anxiety, though, has a nasty habit of taking over. If we let ourselves wallow in anxiety, anxiety begins to dominate our thoughts and feelings as well as control our actions.

Let yourself feel anxious, and then move forward. Focus on everything else about you that is not anxious.

I discuss this briefly in the below video. I invite you to tune in.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

View all posts by Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC.

You Can Let Yourself Be Anxious (Why It's Okay)

Ike Evans
says:
April, 27 2017 at 5:15 pm

Ms. Peterson,

Thank you for this wonderful blog post. I'm a public affairs representative for the Hogg Foundation in Austin, TX. A recent episode of our podcast, Into the Fold, dealt with the subject of politics-induced stress. I think that it may have some value for your audience.

Here's the link to a blog post about it: http://hogg.utexas.edu/political-climate-chronic-stressor. Any social media shares by HealthyPlace would be appreciated.

Thank you!
Ike Evans, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 30 2017 at 11:33 am

Thank you for sharing your resource, Mr. Evans. It's an excellent article and podcast that is useful in our rather toxic climate. I wrote a piece on this topic earlier this year: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2017/02/handling…. Media (traditional and social) can be overwhelming and damaging to our mental health. Thank you, and the University of Texas at Austin, for addressing this in such a helpful way.

Lizanne Corbit
says:
May, 1 2017 at 10:49 pm

I love this read. This really is such an important part of dealing with anxiety. When we want something to go away our initial inclination can be to just try and ignore it, suppress it, do anything BUT acknowledge it. Unfortunately all that does is temporarily hide, or delay it, or worse make it come back that much bigger. By allowing yourself to feel anxious, it's sort of like giving yourself permission that these feelings have just as much validity as the happy/non-anxious ones. Also, observing the anxious feelings without letting them completely take over the wheel and the driver's seat is huge. Thank you for sharing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 3 2017 at 9:59 am

Hi Lizanne,
Very well said! Thank you for sharing your insights!

BJ Rae
says:
May, 22 2017 at 1:57 pm

Media anxiety gets to me. I cope by turning off all electronic devices and walking or reading a good book...

BJ Rae

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