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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.

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    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 July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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