Anxiety; Not only do we hear about it, but we most likely need to cope with it ourselves on a daily basis. So is anxiety a bad thing? In a way, we are taught that it is bad to be anxious, when really, it is completely normal and healthy to feel anxiety. The purpose of anxiety is to warn us of a potential “threat”, whether known or unknown. So when does anxiety turn into a not so good thing? It depends on how we cope with it and whether we’re aware of it.
For example, let’s say you have a big presentation at work today; you’re worried, uncertain of yourself and possibly having some physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache (common signs of anxiety that many of us don’t realize). Most people would feel nervous or uneasy in this situation… This is normal! So what are the “threats” that we may perceive with this presentation? Well, if you’re hoping to get a raise, promotion or your annual review is coming up, it could be a pretty big threat! Anxiety is a way our brain to signals to us that we need to be more aware of the situation at hand.
Ok, so if anxiety is a good thing, then why do so many people struggle with it? It’s not the actual anxiety that is bad, but the way we choose to cope with it. So, let’s go back to our prior example of our anxiety surrounding a work presentation; if one was aware of this anxiety and coped with it in a healthy way, some coping skills they might use would be to talk to someone, listen to music or take some deep breaths. Unhealthy ways of coping would be irrational thoughts (ie. I’m a failure), using an eating disorder or avoidance of the presentation all together.
Being aware of your anxiety (thoughts and feelings in your body) is the first step to tackling unhealthy ways of coping. Sometimes seeking out counseling can be helpful so that your counselor can help you learn how to recognize your anxiety and learn more positive ways to cope with it.