3 Benefits of Anxiety that Might Surprise You
If you live with any amount of anxiety, chances are you don't think of it as beneficial. After all, anxiety has many unpleasant symptoms and negatively impacts our entire being--thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and behaviors. Anxiety most definitely gets in the way of our ability to create and live our lives. Yet anxiety offers some positives and in some ways can be an asset to our lives. Here are three surprising benefits of anxiety to consider so you can use this nuisance to your advantage.
Despite the Benefits of Anxiety, It Does Have Drawbacks
First, a caveat: anxiety does have benefits, but that doesn't mean that you have to love living with it. Anxiety, whether a full-blown anxiety disorder or ordinary life stress and worry, has negative effects on our lives. It's okay to acknowledge that because that leads the way to positive action.
What follows isn't a denial that anxiety is bothersome; instead, it's an offering of a different perspective. When we can see problems with openness and increase our awareness of their positive side, we can use them to our advantage. We can even stop berating ourselves for experiencing anxiety and start appreciating our whole selves. So just what are the benefits of anxiety?
3 Surprising Benefits of Anxiety
Anxiety does serve us well in several ways. It has a positive purpose. While the mind talks to us with words and images, that's not the only way our bodies communicate. The brain and body use physical sensations and abstract, wordless concepts (like joy or anxiety) to send us messages, keep us safe, and help us enhance our situation so we can live life to the fullest. Some of the good things anxiety does for us:
- Anxiety alerts us to potential problems. It is the nagging notion that something isn't right and needs our attention. This warning system can keep us safe from imminent harm if we're in a dangerous area in the dark, and it can be a glaring clue that we're in the wrong job or relationship. When you feel anxious, pause to assess what's going on in your life that might need adjusting.
- Heightened anxiety can be motivating. Let's face it, no matter how success-oriented we are (this could be in our careers, relationships, or pursuits of passions), sometimes life gets overwhelming. Sometimes, we are tempted to throw in the towel, to quit and do something easier. Stress and anxiety can serve us well in these times, giving us the motivation we need to keep going in the face of difficulty.
- Anxiety can build compassion and empathy. Often, we are anxious about something because we care. If we didn't care, we wouldn't experience worry and stress about people or situations in our lives. Worrying about a loved one can strengthen our sense of connection and caring and help us take measures to protect them. Anxiety can lead to nurturing, both others and ourselves.
Anxiety isn't all bad. It can have a positive purpose and benefits to our wellbeing. When you feel anxious or think worrying thoughts, pause to really listen to what your brain and body are trying to tell you. Use the message to take positive action. If, however, you find that anxiety is preventing you from moving forward and is interfering in one or more areas of your life, take this as another message that it's okay to seek help.
Do you have ways to turn the tables on anxiety and make it benefit you? Share your ideas in the comments.
Peterson, T. (2020, July 9). 3 Benefits of Anxiety that Might Surprise You , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 31 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2020/7/3-benefits-of-anxiety-that-might-surprise-you
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
It is so easy for us to focus solely on the negatives on things like anxiety that do bring about some challenges and changes, but I love seeing this perspective shift to include some of the positive attributes as well. They are there! I think you outlined the three you shared perfectly and I would also add that often times anxiety can actually be like a guide, like the bumps on a freeway saying we're moving out of the lane, it can, in some ways, just be attempting to alert us to get back on track. This is not always the case, and sometimes it can be done in a severe way, but it's nice to occasionally look at our anxiety and see it as not all bad. Thanks for sharing!
Yes! Anxiety can very much be like a guide, and the bumps on a freeway is a great metaphor! I love this insight.