Positive Effects of Anxiety
As we seek to help those who struggle with anxiety, we also need to help kids and adults understand the positive effects of anxiety.
Scientists have learned that some degree of stress or anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing.
• Good stress, referred to now as eustress, keeps us motivated and excited about life.
• Anxiety increases motivation and prepares us when we are faced with challenges.
Research indicates that many adults and students who experienced some anxiety displayed improved performance at work, on tests, or while participating in competitive sports. Likewise, some degree of anxiety in those who have a good working memory may actually enhance performance on cognitive tests.
Consider ways that your anxiety creates an incentive for you to be successful in some areas of your life. For instance, perhaps your anxiety assists you in putting extra effort into:
• work or personal tasks
• making a good impression
• moving towards your goals
When considering your own anxiety, try to think of ways that you can use it to inspire your growth and self-improvement.
Anxiety as a Built-In Warning System
Even though it seems useless at times, there is a purpose for anxiety. These feelings and symptoms are a part of our innate way of dealing with stress. Called the fight-or-flight response, anxiety is meant to protect us from danger and allow us to react faster to emergencies. When it came to our ancestors, the fight-or-flight stress response prepared humans to either fight back or flee from a life-threatening risk, such as a dangerous animal or environment condition.
In modern times, anxiety may be a symptom that helps us to quickly react to avoid an accident while driving a car or prevents us from entering an unsafe place or circumstance.
One study in the U.K., found that adolescents who suffered from anxiety had fewer accidents and accidental deaths in early adulthood than those who did not have anxiety.4 In this sense, anxiety is a tool to help keep you safe.
A Positive Character Trait in Friendship
People who have dealt with anxiety may be more empathetic and understanding to the issues that others face.5 Having gone through personal struggles yourself, you may be more sensitive, caring, and accepting when friends and family members are dealing with personal challenges.
Anxiety as a Plus in Leadership
People with anxiety may also be skilled in leadership roles, as they take careful consideration of the possibility of multiple outcomes. They may consider more options and better empathize with peers and subordinates, seeing the environment through multiple viewpoints.
It can be helpful to recognize the potential benefits of why we experience some anxiety and to note these benefits to oneself. But it can also be a real hindrance to many aspects of your life. Your career, relationships, and personal aspirations may be negatively affected by your struggle with anxiety.
When anxiety impacts your life or others in a negative way, please ask for help.