I bet you'd never think this to be true, but you can actually make your anxiety work for you rather than against you. Anxiety and social panic has a lot to do with the "what ifs" in our lives. What if I don't get the job, what if I bomb that presentation, what if I can't pull off that dress, what if they shoot me down when I come up to them at the bar? That's when you cue the wringing hand movements and nervous over the shoulder glances — and that's when your anxiety sets up shop and wins. But you can actually make your anxiety work for you if only you observe the root of their issues.
While that nervous energy can be absolutely nerve-wracking and the majority of us would rather be calm and suave at all times, our anxieties can tell a lot about what we're feeling and what we need to fix. So if we pay close attention to their roots, we can create a lot of positive change in our lives. Below are seven ways you can make your anxieties work for you rather than against you — with a little finagling, all those inner freak out moments can actually lead to some good, good stuff.
1. Use It As A Map Towards Positive Changes That You Could Make
A lot of our anxieties spring up from social, school, or work situations, and a lot of the times we feel said panic because we think something is lacking inside of us. For example, we can feel anxiety for an upcoming work project because we feel like we're not qualified enough to knock it out of the park, or feel anxious about going to an upcoming party because we don't feel secure enough to believe that we're interesting, which right away hints at what we need to work on.
Lifestyle writer Jason Demat at Lifehack wrote, "In today’s hectic world, our fears are more about work, family or personal issues than any imminent danger. Consider what is really worrying you and then create a plan of action to deal with the source of stress." If you don't feel qualified to spearhead a project, research, gather tips, or even enlist a mentor until you feel like you have the qualifications to kills it. If you feel intimidated by a big crowd, listen to podcasts on how to overcome your shyness or bypass small talk, making you feel a little more prepared to be your most charming self. In these ways you can use your anxieties to better yourself and jump into positive change.
2. Let It Help You Realize How Much You Actually Hesitate In Life
A lot of the times when we feel anxiety, we want to get over the feeling as quickly as possible and just cancel the factor that's causing it. So parties are ditched, dates are cancelled, and work opportunities are passed up. Which is a complete bummer.
But what if you could use your anxiety as a tool that'll help you understand all the great chances you're passing up on? By being aware of your knee-jerk reaction to go hide, you can make the conscious decision to work against it and stay. Dr Alice Boyes, author of The Anxiety Toolkit and contributor to Telegraph UK, wrote, "The key is to shift your thinking to recognize the value of acting in spite of uncertainty, versus the harm of not acting at all." By being in tune with your anxiety, you can work against it and grab those chances you were always prone to let go.
3. Use It To Figure Out What's Important To You
We don't usually get worked up about things we don't care about — just think about how you act during that last week of a job you're quitting, or how indifferent you feel about a friend's of a friend's problems. But when you feel a spurt of anxiety over something, that means you have a stake in it, which can be pretty telling.
Demat pointed out, "Your lack of concern isn’t always laziness. If the activity really was meaningful for you, then you would indeed be motivated to act. Here your lack of anxiety may in fact point to this activity not being as important as you perhaps originally thought it to be." Use your anxiety as a factor to highlight what's really important to you: Whether it's an upcoming project or date, it can underline what's worth putting a little more effort into.
4. Let It Help You Get Over Your Perfectionism
There's a little bit of a perfectionist in each of us, and while that urge to stay at a 100 percent can definitely work in our favor, other times it's nothing but destructive. If you're having doubts about your skills, that's exactly when anxiety pops up. Instead of trying something you're unfamiliar with, that need to be perfect will hold you back. When you feel anxiety kick in, take a moment and check if it's because you're acting like a perfectionist and, if so, nip that in the bud.
Dr. Boyes advised, "Set limits on overly persistent behavior ... don’t allow yourself to check documents excessively, and stop for a break after spending 30 minutes working on one task. This will give you some psychological distance before deciding how much more effort it’s wise to devote." Instead of letting your perfectionism take over, let your anxiety act as a flag to take it down a notch.
5. Use It As A Tool For Self Growth
Use your anxiety as a tool to grow as a person and to learn how to handle hard situations better. For example, how many times can you remember losing your cool when an issue arose? I have a couple stories over popped tires and missed trains that I can cringe over myself. But when you feel that anxiety hit, you can use it as an opportunity to learn what's worth freaking out over and what's not.
Demat offered, "Take a flexible approach since, let’s be honest, though you may feel like you are doing something, often getting stressed will have absolutely no effect on the outcome." Using your anxiety as a learning opportunity to take a step back, learning to become flexible and going with the flow rather than freaking out over something you have no power changing can be a great tool for self growth.
6 Let Your Anxiety Help You Get Over Your Fear Of Criticism
A lot of us feel anxiety right before an important task or event because we're scared of being criticized — what if people think we're incompetent, unprofessional, or a lame person to talk to? Arg! But that can lead you to bowing out of amazing opportunities and missing out on meeting great people, so the next time you feel a burst of anxiety, see if it's because you're scared of being condemned. And then power through, because that shouldn't hold you back. Dr. Boyes offered, "It's only unhelpful if you feel so threatened by criticism that you avoid feedback and challenges, or if criticism sends you spiraling into weeks of rumination." If you're dodging situations because you're afraid of feedback or coming up against challenges, don't let your anxiety stop you from moving forward. Instead, use it as a red flag and work to overcome it.
7. Use It To Get Grounded With Reality
The thing is, sometimes you just can't change what's happening to you. You can't will the anxiety away and you can't make the butterflies stop in your tummy, so you can use this feeling as an opportunity to accept that sometimes you just have to power through what's uncomfortable, rather than trying to avoid it.
Tom Corboy, co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, told PsychCentral, "It just means you would benefit by accepting reality as it is – and in that moment, reality includes anxiety. The bottom line is that the feeling of anxiety is less than ideal, but it is not intolerable.” This'll help toughen you up because you'll come to the realization that even though it sucks and is uncomfortable, it's something that you can weather.
So use these moments of anxiety as opportunities for self growth and make the panic work for you, rather than against you!
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