This is Why Anxiety is ImportantMar 13, 2023
Anxiety doesn't feel good. Let's start there.
It's a common and uncomfortable experience that most of us have at some point in life. The feelings of worry, fear, and unease that can be triggered by a variety of situations can be nothing short of unpleasant.
However, before we throw the whole nerve wracked baby out with the bathwater, there's some conversations that rarely get had that can be revelatory to recognise: it's not always a negative. In fact, anxiety can be healthy and often serves a positive purpose in our lives - when we're willing to pay attention.
For most people, anxiety is viewed as a nuisance. It's not enjoyable and kinda just gets in the way. There's no shortage of supplement peddling "gurus" online for short term relief, or promises of "the cure". People will forever be able to sell solutions, regardless of whether or not they work, because anxiety can wreak havoc.
When it comes to acknowledging how anxiety can be important, there's two levels to come in at:
The first, is that anxiety has deeply rooted physiological ties, we really feel it. And hey, there can be some surface level benefits to short term anxiety - it can be a great motivator into action. When we feel anxious about a task or goal we're intent on achieving, it can push us to work harder and strive for success.
Feel anxious about an upcoming exam? Here's a dose of adrenaline to stay up and study. Wanna push yourself harder? Anxiety will drip feed cortisol to pile on some pressure.
We may be motivated to study harder and do our best to succeed. Anxiety can provide a positive, forceful impetus that helps us achieve our goals and reach our full potential. This is important.
However, there's a second point here, that in all my years of anxiety experience, rarely gets talks about - especially as it relates to ongoing anxiety:
Anxiety reminds you that you're human.
Anxiety reminds you that you can feel.
And this is of great importance.
However unwelcome this reminder, it's a good one. You're still feeling. There's a part of you that's still connected and it wants you to pay attention. This is part of your authenticity, of your aliveness.
Sure, maybe you don't want that, maybe the reasons behind your anxiety are deeply painful, BUT it is a good thing. It's good because you exist and the experiences you've had in life matter.
It's helpful because your body refuses to forget what your surface level mind may try to.
Anxiety rarely comes from "nothing" and ignoring it doesn't solve it at the root cause - even anxiety management tools can only help mitigate some discomfort. Sometimes, for momentary anxieties like public speaking, a course or personal development plan can be beneficial and alleviate worries.
Anxiety can play a key role in helping keep you attached to your humanity, to your experiences in life and to the deeper parts of your mind. Feeling is the primary method our body and minds use to communicate with us, much like a language.
Despite your aching desire to go hell for leather after your goals and get sucked into the capitalistic machine of work-work-work... there is one very unavoidable truth: you're not a robot.
Anxiety will never let you forget that.
When anxiety becomes disruptive to your mood, relationships or life, no amount of meditation, affirmations, journalling or other therapeutic activities can replace the inescapable need to sit down and address the trauma that's caused the anxiety through effective ongoing therapy. This is part of acknowledging your humanity and your story.
Anxiety won't be reassured with a temporary fix because it's connected to the wholeness of who you are. This internal alarm will keep on sounding. It is stubborn in it's desire to be seen and for you to see it. And you deserve that.
If this resonates, some questions you may like to reflect onto move forward with are:
How will you recognise your humanity?
How to you react to your own vulnerability?
What will you do with these parts of yourself?
Of course, none of this dismisses the discomfort, pain and disruption that anxiety or medical conditions can bring. Instead, invites you to consider how you approach your anxiety as a communication tool and language of your psyche and body.
It's important to seek professional help for ongoing or recurring anxiety, because just as it's an important reminder that you're human, it also reminds you that you don't have to manage life alone - which is truly vital to your humanity.
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