Useful Anxiety v. Harmful Anxiety

How anxiety can be useful for making changes in your life compared to what it looks like when it becomes harmful and what you can do to manage it.

Here it is: my first blog post, months after it was first suggested to me. When I first got the suggestion I thought it seemed like a good idea: a way to channel my knowledge and experience into a written form which could be helpful to people; the only problem was, being less knowledgeable in web-tech, a blog is uncharted territory for me.  And so I dragged my feet with uncertainty while carrying a nagging, unsettled feeling that kept telling me I needed to take the plunge with this new change.  This feeling was anxiety and it was useful to me at a time of transition.

Anxiety is uncomfortable and that does not have to be a bad thing, it can be a motivator.  It is that unsettled feeling that says “I know things need to be different but I’m not sure how this will turn out”.  The tricky part of life is that the only way to discover how things will turn out is to move forward with the change.  In addition to being a motivator of change, the other benefit of the anxiety is it keeps you alert and tuned into discovering all the subtleties of a new change.  Useful anxiety is a normal part of life, it signals the need for change and creates a heightened awareness of how changes are unfolding.

Anxiety comes with the intersection of changes and the unknown, it is the worry and doubt about future events, which are often outside our full control.  Anxiety can become harmful when it freezes us, either in life changes or in day to day life.  This happens when the anxious thoughts about “what if”s and “worst possibilities” feed on each other and grow to create a feeling of overwhelming fear to such a degree that it feels safest to do nothing.  When anxiety moves from an unsettled but motivating state to a fearful or stuck state, it is harmful.  When anxiety causes physical symptoms (elevated heart beat, shortness of breath, sweating) or interferes with daily activities, it may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.  To read more about anxiety disorders visit website of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

Whatever level of anxiety you are experiencing, if it is causing distress you will benefit from discussing it with a mental health professional who can help you develop a plan for managing the anxiety and regaining a settled feeling of self-control.  A plan could include a variety of behavioral practices such as relaxation techniques, exercise, and nutrition; it could include cognitive techniques such as thought tracking and identification of thought distortions;  it could include using prescription medication to control physical symptoms; or the plan could be about how to successfully navigate life changes.  Anxiety is uncomfortable, to say the least, and it is only useful when it is addressed; left to linger, anxiety becomes harmful and leads to stagnation and distress.

4 replies on “Useful Anxiety v. Harmful Anxiety”

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