Yes, anxiety is bad, but hey, what if we could find an upside to it?
Welcome to the club of the chronically anxious. The place where anxious souls meet. Where every bus leads us to somewhere unknown, not our desired destination. The place where everything goes wrong during our conversations with the special person. The place where we totally make fools of ourselves during our presentations.
Before we get to the good parts of anxiety, we first have to establish what anxiety means to us in this context. Then we’ll assess how to get it under control(halfway). Highly optimistic perspectives right here. Let’s get into a cheery mood.
Welcome to the anxious mind. What does it look like?
The anxious mind. While, most times, chaotic, highly creative as well.
And I am here to argue that we can take advantage of the creativity of our nature. The creativity we usually apply to how situations could go wrong in all possible ways.
We could actually use that creativity to create good. And along the way, we could even ease the negative effects anxiety has on us. Wouldn’t that be great?
Well, I do have to admit, it wasn’t easy at first, saying good bye to anxiety. After all, it has become some kind of friend of ours. While being grumpy and fearful most of the time, it still has always been there for us. Especially in bad situations. And oftentimes, it even halfway-correctly predicted the outcome of situations.
Anxiety is a constant companion. It’s like a toxic relationship. You know you should let go of it, but you do not quite know how and you also are still holding on to something. Holding on to something you’re not quite sure what it is.
But, after one kind of key moment, we fall into a deep rabbit hole, and we start to see the light above of our heads again. That’s when we start reaching for the light again. The moments we realize we need to do something against it. We need to act. We want to be normal functioning humans again. Not shitting our pants at the idea of running into someone in the supermarket or almost throwing up at the thought of having to go by bus.
The cool thing is, we do actually have the power. As the ancient Greeks have already taught us, we need to know ourselves before we can do anything in our favour. And now that we have consciously made the decision to change something about our situation, we can reframe and look at the issue in a different way.
We can listen to the anxious voice in our head, saying we shouldn’t do something, it might be dangerous, yeah… sure. You’ll have to learn to distrust that voice. Say: Now even more. I will do what I want to do.
I won’t let my life be dictated by irrational fears.
I will empower myself. I am breaking that habit. Because that’s what it is. Anxiety is the habit of following a specific thought pattern, caused by a certain cue.
Identify that cue and be prepared for it. Know when you will encounter it and prepare for what you’re going to do to counteract that anxious thought in your head. Try to imagine what you will do in that situation to calm you down. The only time anxiety overwhelms us is when it takes us by surprise and once we even take hold of the situation, it has already got us on the ground. SO be prepared, know what you are going to do in that moment. I will give you the toolkit in the following part of the post.
What effects does anxiety have on us?
So, yeah… we all know the negative effects of anxiety. Besides the pain in the ass of panic attacks at the mere thought of something bad happening, we have the long-term effects of course. High cholesterol and adrenaline levels. A chronic stress response of the body. We’re tired because we are afraid of literally doing anything. Using virtually all our energy to imagine all the possible scenarios of a situation. Fun stuff, you know, the usual. The long-term negative effects of this can be heightened risk of heart disease, cancer, and of course, to top it all, premature death. So, yeah, we probably want to get in control of this. Unless you get excited by this rosy outlook at later life.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff:
How do we actually take advantage of our anxiety?
That’s what you are here for, aren’t you?
As we just learned, we can get highly creative when we are imagining how we’ll get stabbed because we got on the wrong bus on the way to work and got somewhere completely different. Or similar scenarios.
But do you ever notice you can use that creativity to your advantage as well? Have you ever tried writing? Try writing a story and notice how your mind just goes completely into overdrive, to the point where you have so many ideas you do not even know what to write down first. Or take a brush and paint and just lose yourself in it.
Play around, and let your nature lead you. You’ll wake up from that flow phase and look at what you’ve created and be surprised. Your mind can actually work to your advantage.
And if you’re thinking now “Well, thank you very much but I can neither write nor paint beautifully, so I can just as well give up.”
I am not saying that you’ll become a Pablo Picasso from the mere intuition of your anxious mind. All I am trying to argue is that you can use that creative energy and invest it elsewhere. You will still have to build up skills and knowledge concerning writing and painting or whatever creative activity. But you will have an alternative to anxiety.
And I can guarantee you, once you know how to activate and control that creativity, you’re going to be like a machine. Coming up with ideas and creations all the time. When I initially started painting, I was so into it that I produced about five painting every day.
I am not claiming they were particularly beautiful, but through practice comes virtue. Find an activity for yourself, which you can take up once you feel your mind to start wandering off again. For example, when you’re scared af to get on that bus or aeroplane, you start shaking and feel your palms get sweaty; that is the moment you’ll take out your notebook or phone’s writing app and you will write about the sensation.
You will start writing about how you can feel the adrenaline washing through your veins and your heart feels like it’s going to burst. You’re going to write about the way you do not think your legs are going to carry you much farther, feeling weak under the pressure of fear. And in the blink of an eye, you’ll be surprised. Merely writing the sensations down, can have such a soothing effect, as if you’d dealt with it and are now more aware of what is going on. You’ll feel much calmer. This has helped me fend off panic attacks so many times, I could not count it on two hands.
I dare you.
What could you do today, now to turn the anxiety game around?
What do you want to be your coping mechanism?
Write it down. Remember. Act. Get accustomed to it.
It will soon be second nature. You can officially kiss your anxiety goodbye.