Can Anxiety Be Good For Me?

By: Lisa Albright, MAC

Hello!  This blog is intended to give you a brief snapshot on anxiety and the latest findings showing that anxiety can be harnessed to provide positive benefits for you and your relationships.

I hope you find this helpful.  If you have other topics you’d like to know more about, please don’t hesitate to let me know at albrightlisa22@yahoo.com

With admiration for your interest in wellbeing,

Lisa

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How can anxiety be good for me?

“We have turned anxiety into something to be gotten rid of because we make the mistake of fearing anxiety itself.  We need to interpret our anxiety not as something to overcome but as something that can potentially enhance our lives.”

—Dr. David H. Rosmarin, PhD.

IDEA:  Certain behavioral approaches to anxiety can have positive benefits leading to growth in self-awareness and self-compassion, as well as a greater sense of connection in your relationships.

We all know anxiety doesn’t feel “positive.”  Often it comes with the uncomfortable, physical sensations of a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and inability to concentrate.  The emotional impacts of anxiety can feel just as bad, with feelings of insecurity, worthlessness, loneliness, and feeling stuck or stifled.

But can anxiety be good for you?

“What if, instead of fighting our anxiety, we could turn it into a strength?”

—Dr. David H. Rosmarin, PhD.

Anxiety is a natural and normal, biological signal.  By activating our fight-or-flight system, the feeling of anxiety puts our bodies and minds on high alert to deal with a present, tangible threat.  However, anxiety becomes unhealthy when our signal gets stuck in the “on” position and we perceive that we are in danger even when we are not.  A constant state of anxiety, fear, and worry can wreak havoc on our wellbeing and ability to function in our day-to-day lives.

Through his clinical work with the Harvard Medical School and the McLean Hospital’s Center for Anxiety, Dr. David Rosmarin has come up with an innovative way to look at anxiety.  He believes anxiety, when harnessed properly, can be a constructive component of one’s life, enhancing your self-awareness and sense of connection in your relationships.

Below are a sample of action steps Dr. Rosmarin suggests which can help you unleash the “good” side of your anxiety.

A Deeper Connection to Ourselves?

Anxiety can help us be more self-compassionate.

Action Steps:

  • Recognize having anxiety does not mean something is wrong with you.
  • Normalize that it’s natural to feel anxious at times; it’s a sign that your fear response is working properly.
  • Don’t judge yourself for feeling anxious. Learn to be kind to yourself even if you don’t think you deserve kindness.
  • Anxiety can help us be more self-aware.

Action Steps:

  • Recognize the issues that make you feel anxious.
  • Pick one issue. Sit with your anxious feelings and try to accept them.
  • Realize your anxious feelings will not last. They will ebb and flow and eventually fade.  “Ride the wave.”
  • Anxiety can help us transcend our limitations and develop inner strength.

Action Steps:

  • Face up to your anxiety! “Anxiety is uncomfortable yet not dangerous.”  If you suppress, avoid, or hide it, the anxiety will get worse.
    • First — Ask: What am I afraid of? What am I avoiding because of my anxiety?
    • Second – Envision what it would be like if this anxiety didn’t exist for you. Imagine doing the things you’ve been avoiding.
    • Third – Try to sit with the feeling of being free from this anxiety.
    • Fourth — Recognize you are stronger than your anxiety!

A Deeper Connection to Others?

Anxiety can help us accept the limitations of others.

Action Steps:

  • Recognize all relationships are imperfect.
  • Accept people’s differences and use that as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Take relationship “errors” at face value, without assuming negative intent.
  • Know that mistakes, miscommunications, and screw-ups are inevitable. Give compassion to yourself and others, without judgment or blame.
  • Anxiety can help us deepen our connections to others.

Action Steps:

  • Recognize how feeling anxious in a relationship is a good sign – it means you care a lot.
  • Accept how anxiety makes our relationships more intimate because we can recognize and then share our vulnerability.
  • Consider how anxiety makes you more aware of your wants and needs from a relationship.

Summary & Takeaways

You are not alone in having anxiety.  Anxiety is the most common mental health concern in the United States, with over 40 million adults struggling with clinically significant anxiety.  But thanks to new findings of clinicians such as Dr. Rosmarin, we now have actionable steps to help us turn our anxiety into a strength, enhancing our connection to ourselves and to others.

References:

https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/anxiety-statistics/#:~:text=Nationally%3A%20Over%2040%20million%20adults,and%20depression%20symptoms%20in%202023.

Rosmarin, D., PhD. (2023). Thriving with anxiety. 2023. Harper Horizon.

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