Everybody experiences anxiety, and it is not all bad. I’m about to explain why.
Recent stats show that 3 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for an anxiety disorder, and people with an anxiety disorder make up 25% of those now seeking treatment for a mental health problem in this country.
However, having an anxiety disorder is different from being anxious or having anxious thoughts. Anxiety is a primary human emotion, and I’d argue that it is central to growth as an individual.
What is anxiety and when does it become a problem?
Anxiety involves feelings of restlessness, agitation, concern, and fear concerning stressful events or circumstances.
These are perfectly natural responses to many things that happen in life, such as work or relationship stress, family feuds, taxes, the last 5 minutes of your football team’s important match, even just a glance at the news.
However, anxiety becomes a disorder when it occurs out of proportion to the original stressor or trigger. For example, it’s perfectly understandable that revising for exams or working to close deadlines might cause someone to experience anxious feelings and pressure.
If someone experiences this at the thought of talking to someone or leaving the house to the extent that it causes severe hindrances to their life, anxiety becomes a disorder.
The comparison many psychotherapists and psychologists use is that of a faulty car alarm.
In people who have an anxiety disorder – and there are many types, including social anxiety and specific phobias – the natural mechanism that triggers anxiety works like a car alarm that triggers without any cause at all, or cannot be switched off once it starts.
But using that same example, you need the car alarm in the first place to let you know someone is trying to make off with your set of wheels. Anxiety is a protector.
Why you need anxiety
Anxiety is more than an emotion. It’s a basic human survival instinct that lets us know when something is out of place or potentially harmful.
When human beings were just about upright and able to communicate, our main threats were larger animals, running out of food, and finding shelter. Predators and knife-edge living situations are still a problem for many of the less fortunate amongst us.
Anxiety was the feeling that told us a large, fanged animal was fast approaching. or that sent us out to hunt harder and protect our family or tribe. Many animals have a reaction that resembles our understanding of anxiety, but we have learned to associate emotion with this feeling.
Modern humans are far more comfortable, on the whole. Anxiety these days revolves around money and relationships, achievements, and what the future may bring. A fear of unknown entities that could snatch the present away from you has evolved into worries about unfulfilled potential and the importance of legacy.
This is a good thing
Being comfortable feels great but ultimately robs a person of the urge to grow and develop:
- Feelings of anxiety mean that you are uncomfortable with your current job, earnings, or environment, and encourage you to push for something better.
- If you feel uncomfortable around your group of peers, you’ll be more inclined to hang around with people that support you and make you feel good.
- If you’re uncomfortable in a dead-end relationship that you’ve settled for, anxiety will make you think twice about why you’re involved with this person.
Anxiety, then, is the opposite of comfort. Without anxiety, it’d be virtually impossible to grow, because we’d never realise that our situations needed improving. Even if we did, we wouldn’t have the drive to enhance ourselves.
This theory applies to stepping up your dating game in equal amounts. Many of my clients come to me because the thought of talking to a woman they don’t know is terrifying, but also because they feel anxious about the impact this might have on their overall happiness and life moving forward.
It is anxiety that makes them want to be better. Without it, people might feel happy settling for the first woman that shows them attention without striving for what they deserve.
If you assess your life, and parts of it give you those butterflies in your stomach that say “something’s up,” it might be time to make the necessary changes.
Drinking or taking drugs to try and combat feelings of anxiety can also hold back your achievements.
Instead of embracing and challenging that anxiety, you try to push it down, which ends up harming you in the long run.
I’m not downplaying anxiety disorders. They’re genuine and if you pick up on the signs of one, try and speak to a mental health professional about the next steps.
This post is simply about helping you realise that your brain has ways of telling you that there are barriers between you and your potential. Listen to it.
Anxiety is one of those methods.
Never, ever get comfortable, and always be improving.
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