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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 May 21, 2019

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

    Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

    You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

    In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

    “Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

    The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

    Creativity also emphasizes values.

    “The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

    This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

    In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

    And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

    1. Cultivate Focus

    In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

    You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

    However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

    In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

    In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

    How to cultivate focus?

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    Take a 20 Minute Walk

    Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

    I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

    Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

    If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

    Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

    2. Build a Structure

    When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

    The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

    The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

    Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

    The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

    Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

    How to build a structure?

    Create a Morning Routine

    Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

    We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

    Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

    You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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    3. Find Motivation

    There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

    Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

    Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

    Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

    In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

    For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

    This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

    How to find motivation?

    Connect to Your “Why”

    Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

    ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

    When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

    The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

    Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

    Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

    If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

    Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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    So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

    If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

    The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

    Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

    How to become an expert?

    Make a Mastery Training Plan

    Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

    1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

    Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

    2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

    Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

    3. Review your progress

    Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

    How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

    5. Create a Conducive Environment

    A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

    “a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

    I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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    I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

    I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

    It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

    If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

    This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

    How to create a conducive environment?

    Add or Subtract Stimuli

    Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

    If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

    On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

    Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

    Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

    In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

    The Bottom Line

    Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

    To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

    More Articles About Creativity

    Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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