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5 Reasons Why You Should Embrace Anxiety (Myths Debunked)

5 Reasons Why You Should Embrace Anxiety (Myths Debunked)

You have what we call, generalized anxiety disorder,” my doctor said.

After years of unending worry, I had decided to talk to my doctor about what I’d been feeling. I always felt worried about things going wrong and people being angry with me. Other people seemed so much more relaxed than me. Why? Was there a different way of thinking? Was there a different way to handle stress?

And while sometimes my anxiety still gets the best of me, and every day can be a HUGE challenge, once I accepted I was a naturally anxious person and began learning to work with it instead of against it, my life improved greatly.

You may feel the same way, thinking: “Oh I wish I wasn’t so nervous on dates,” or, “Why can’t I just be ready to go for that job interview?”; or, “Why do I incessantly worry about needless crap?”

But everyone feels anxiety, it’s just that some people are better at dealing with it and turning it into positive action, whereas others get paralyzed by it and worry about things for days.

How can you learn to embrace anxiety?

1. “Being anxious and being excited feel eerily similar”

One day when I was asking a friend for advice on moving abroad, he said this to me. It makes sense: with both excitement and anxiety you feel butterflies in your stomach, you shake or vibrate with energy, and you are anticipating something.

The difference is that one propels you forward, and one keeps you held back in fear.

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When you look at something and feel anxious, try to also see the part that could be making you feel excited. In fact, studies have shown that doing this can improve your performance in situations you are worrying about … not to mention the fact that it will make you much happier.

For example, you might get nervous about going on a first date. It makes sense: you want them to like you and you want it to go well. But you’re probably also feeling a tinge of excitement – Could this be a potential relationship? Is the night going to end with you back at someone’s place? Are you going to connect with someone really cool?

Anxiety and excitement often go hand in hand. So, try to focus on excitement as well, when you are feeling anxious.

2. Anxiety shows you things you can improve

Anxiety is very personal. One person can feel extremely anxious in a certain type of situation, while another is perfectly fine. Someone who always does well on tests is probably going to be a bit nervous before taking one, but they know they will do fine. Another person who is always liked in social situations feels nervous about meeting new people, but knows that usually everyone is friendly and there’s no reason to worry.

But if the test-taker isn’t used to socializing and the social dynamo doesn’t study much, OF COURSE they will feel anxiety. They don’t have enough practice in either situation to feel confident. So if you feel lots of anxiety in one area of your life, you can see that as a sign of things you need to work on.

In treating anxiety this way, you can learn to improve as a person.

anxiety-myths

    3. Anxiety and conscientiousness are interconnected

    If you are anxious, you probably think about the future a lot. You might be caught up thinking about what will go wrong, what will happen if you say something to offend someone, and what if people get angry with you…

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    But if you live all your life in the future, you can never enjoy the present, and you are constantly bound to fear. But being conscientious about what you say is good – you want to be well liked and treat people with respect. Also, looking towards the future when you plan is great. This helps you to make sure you don’t run out of money, make a bad decision, or mess up your life!

    This foresight can also be used to plan so you decrease your anxiety and do better in life. In fact, scientists have a term for people like this: healthy neurotics – people who are anxious, but don’t let the anxiety control them. They use the anxiety to plan ahead, do the best they can, and then trust that they have done enough preparation for whatever they are trying to achieve or accomplish.

    The thing is that if you have anxiety, little things may send you into an unnecessary worry cycle. For example, losing one day of sleep might make you tired the next day, but you won’t die and you can probably still work. Missing the gym once might set you back incredibly slightly on your fitness goals, but in the long run, it won’t matter much.

    Having foresight and being conscientious are both incredibly desirable features – just not when they paralyze you. To help yourself, you can take small steps towards things you feel scared about, and you’ll see that even if something goes “wrong”, you will still be OK.

    For example, you could take a day off from the gym on purpose. Weigh yourself at the end of the week. Are you still on track to achieve your goal of gaining muscle or losing fat? You probably will be, and this proof discounts your brain’s attempts to predict that bad things will always happen.

    Our mind assumes we will keep getting what we’ve always gotten in similar situations, due to emotional memory stored in the part of our brain known as the amygdala. In fact, sometimes it will goad us into making decisions or taking actions to deliberately GET the same result. It does not recognize that we can gain wisdom through experience and age.

    Or, if you have never done something before, the brain will project negatively, (making an assumption that in the future something bad will happen), to try to achieve priority number one: keeping you alive.

    But we don’t live in a time of dinosaurs and tigers anymore. Most ‘dangers’ are not actually that dangerous and we can, if our fears come true, recover from a social embarrassment or financial loss.

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    4. Anxious moments are opportunities to practice valuable skills

    Before approaching that attractive person, delivering that important speech, or taking that test, you know how you’re likely to feel. Your palms will be sweating, your heart starts to beat faster, your chest tightens, you have a billion thoughts racing in your head, and maybe you need to use the restroom….

    This is all being triggered by your body recognizing the flight, fight, or freeze response as danger.

    You can get rid of anxiety in two ways: not doing the thing (avoiding the moment or event that causes the anxiety), or pushing through (since afterwards, the anxiety will have come and passed).

    It is in the moments of choosing to push through that you can practice valuable skills that propel you forward in life.

    One of the worst things people suffering from anxiety can think is that because of the anxiety they can’t or shouldn’t do something. For example, they shouldn’t ask for a raise, they shouldn’t stand up for themselves, or they shouldn’t talk to people. Sure, not doing these things might make the anxiety go away, but this also leads to HEAPS of regret, guilt, and keeps you from growing in life.

    So when you get anxious, try supportive self-talk, such as, “After we do this, we can take a break and I’ll buy you lunch”, or, “It will be OK, I know you can do it”, or, “You’ll feel better for doing this, and you will grow”, and “I believe in you”. This might seem airy-fairy, but self-talk can make or break you, and the most successful people replace negative self-talk with positive alternatives. They offer offer unconditional support to themselves as much as they can, even during times when they think they are bad or they’ve screwed up.

    You can also extend this to learning how to meditate and breathe deeply. In anxious moments, our shoulders rise and tighten, our neck cranes forward, and we want to close ourselves off – It’s a defensive posture which happens in preparation for attack. Instead, you want to learn how to slow down your breathing and breathe deeply, relaxing bodily tension. The mind and body are intimately connected, so if one relaxes, so will the other.

    If you are like me, a great deal of your anxiety stems from being a Type-A, high achieving person who is continuously hard on themselves when things don’t get done. We over-achievers need to learn that there’s always another day to do work, important things will get done, (we’ll find a way), and it’s never worth the stress. We are so kind to our best friends, but why not to ourselves?

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    If you need more reasons to be self-compassionate, multiple studies (Breines, et.al., Rohleder, et.al.) have shown that self-compassion has been linked to lower levels of inflammation-induced stress. This kind of stress can lead to health issues like cardiovascular problems, and cancer.

    5. Pushing through anxiety demonstrates great strength and courage. It is not a sign of weakness

    I think this is something we all forget.

    It’s easy to give in to fear and anxiety and not do the things we are scared of. It’s far easier than pushing through and risking personal rejection. It’s always easier not to rock the boat.

    But it can also be incredibly dangerous, leading to a life of frustration, boredom, aggravation, and feeling like you aren’t living how you should be.

    Pushing through your anxiety can be INCREDIBLY difficult, and it can take a lot of mental strength and courage. But it’s worth it to strive for what you want, whether that be in personal relationships, work, travel, or another aspect of your life.

    You should commend yourself every time you do something that scares you. Give yourself lots of positive support. Buy yourself a small gift. Relax for a bit.

    I know from personal experience that dealing with anxiety can be incredibly difficult, and some days you just want to give up. Some days it’s easier to just not push… and that’s OK. But with only one life to live, you need to begin breaking through your barriers to get what you want, even if this is achieved small step by small step.

    Anxiety doesn’t go away. You will just get used to it over time and learn how to deal with it more effectively.

    As you face your fears and learn tools that can help you to make friends with your anxiety, it will eventually lose it’s power to control how you live your life.

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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