We all know what anxiety is, what it feels like, but did you know that anxiety in small doses can actually help you? It's only when we get overwhelmed by our anxiety that it can hurt us, physically and emotionally. Small amounts of anxiety, it turns out, can help motivate us to perform. Without it, we might all become a little bit lazier. Athletes are a prime example. If a team is sitting in the locker room at half time and they're down by a couple of points, they know that if they don't pull it together, the loss could end the season for them. That's a wonderful illustration of good anxiety. Without the fear of loss, they might not be as motivated to go back out onto the playing field and try a little harder!
In 2008, psychologists at Stamford University discovered that the anterior insula area of the brain, one part of the brain that processes emotions and perceives control, plays a "vital role in predicting danger and learning to avoid it." The study goes on to show that people (and us frogs) who have excessive anxiety have lower levels of activation in the anterior insula. Scientists have agreed that maintaining optimal levels of anxiety, neither too high nor too low, can provide positive value.
So, OK, how do those of us with NORMAL levels of anxiety put it to good use?
1, Accept that you'll have some anxiety. The trick is to not panic when you become faced with a little anxiety. Try not to blow it up out of proportion. Realize that "this too shall pass." Take a moment and look at your anxiety. Are you truly in serious trouble, or is this situation not as dire as you may have first concluded? By accepting that we all have anxiety now and again, may well determine you how handle the stressful situation that has come up.
2. Change your perception on anxiety. Once you accept that you'll have anxiety in your life, it becomes easier to change your perception of it. If you associate anxiety with negative symptoms like fear, discomfort, and even danger, your anxiety can't work work you. In 2015, a study published in the Anxiety, Stress, ans Coping journal showed that changing our perception of anxiety, from one of "bad" to one of "helpful", can make it work positively for us. By doing this one thing, we can create a space for anxiety to work on our behalf. Learn to see how it can motivate you, keep you alert, quick on your feet, and help you make well thought-out decisions that allow you to perform at your very best! Those are all positive things to come from simply changing how we look at our anxiety.
3. Turn your anxiety into action. When we become anxious, it's easy to focus all of our attention on that instead of a plan to correct the problem we face. Becoming attached to our anxiety and the symptoms it causes, can paralyze us and prevent us from moving through the stressful situation we face. A better way, is to channel our anxiety into action. Take a proactive approach to finding a solution. It does no good to throw your hands, or flippers, in the air and simply give up! If you choose to do nothing, the situation will, eventually, resolve itself...but you probably won't like the end result! Isn't it better to be in charge of the solution, rather than waiting to see what happens? Now THAT could be really scary!
I found this information rather encouraging! And I know that next timeI'm faced with anxiety, I will look at in a more positive light. Anytime we can learn to change a negative into a positive, we are better off for it. We become happier, healthier, and more productive. I want lots more of those things in my life. And I bet you do, too! So why not change our attitude towards anxiety? It can help us be more proactice...and certainly won't make anything any worse.
See you all back here tomorrow. Have a great, stress-free day!