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Anxiety Isn't Always Bad

Lauren is a fiction writer passionate about self-improvement. Follow her at @fruit_stains to see more of her work.

Anxiety Isn't Always Bad

Anxiety can be debilitating. Constantly worrying over things you can’t control, the physical symptoms that come with anxiety, and periodic anxiety attacks can take a lot of time and energy, leaving you feeling depleted and defeated.

At this level, anxiety is certainly not productive. High levels of anxiety create fear and worry that can prevent you from getting things done and challenging yourself. Yet too little or no anxiety can also result in inertia and a lack of urgency.

There is a sweet spot. According to research, a moderate amount of stress, or productive anxiety, can actually propel you forward in a positive way. Here are some ways anxiety can help you succeed.

Creates motivation

The right amount of anxiety can prompt a healthy motivation to tackle problems or meet deadlines. If you feel anxious about an upcoming exam, anxiety about failing will prompt you to study. If you experience some anxiety about your health, it can compel you to schedule a doctor’s appointment or make sure that you’re living a healthy lifestyle. Of course, too much anxiety can decrease motivation and stressing over things you can’t control is fruitless. But if you’re worried about things you can control, you can turn the anxiety into motivation to address problems and learn new strategies for dealing with fears.

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Sharpens focus

Anxiety creates a surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline is released in response to a stressful, dangerous, or exciting situation. It causes your heart to beat faster, quickens your breathing, and gives your muscles a burst of energy. While too much adrenaline can put the body in fight or flight mode, the right amount can sharpen your focus. For example, if you feel slightly anxious while driving, you’ll become more alert and less likely to get into an accident.

Enhances performance

Productive anxiety creates higher performance levels. According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, a certain level of excitement is critical to high performance. As arousal in the brain increases, performance also increases — within limits. If arousal becomes too high, then performance decreases again. Athletes have long used productive anxiety to their advantage, working hard to reach a healthy balance between feeling calm and excessively anxious before big games.

Using anxiety to your advantage

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. The key to using anxiety to your advantage lies in finding a balance between too much and too little stress. While it’s certainly not easy, techniques such as accepting and reframing anxiety can help you find this balance. If you can, anxiety can help you sharpen your focus, gain motivation, and ultimately enhance your performance.

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