If in the current context anxiety seems to be a problem turned into an epidemic, the truth is that this state of psychological and physiological activation is not in itself bad. Evolution has made it appear in our lives as a mechanism for dealing with situations in which we need to act proactively, stepping out of our comfort zone.
However, for people used to a very hectic pace of life or to situations in which the risk of losing something is high, anxiety can end up depleting your health; and it is that our body is not prepared to undergo these pressures for several days in a row.
The point is, often a good part of the problem with anxiety is that this feeling is brought on by the anxiety itself, its presence. Therefore, if we learn to tame it, we will not only reduce its disadvantages, but we can use its effect in our favor.
Why should we take advantage of anxiety?
Chronic anxiety is not only a nuisance, it can have serious health consequences. For example, it has been shown that when it becomes chronic, the immune system finds itself in a particularly vulnerable situation. This causes a chain reaction which can lead to infections, errors in healing and defending the body against viruses, etc.
Likewise, anxiety can reach make our memory work abnormally. For example, very stressful situations can be accompanied by an inability to remember what happened, even if one has not passed out. Indeed, temporarily, certain chemicals secreted by the body during a peak of anxiety act by blocking the functions of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for storing memories.
Anxiety can also cause problems managing the concentration of attention well, at least if the stress is constant for several hours.
It is therefore important to manage anxiety levels intelligently. so that it does not interfere with our health or interfere with mental processes that we must think carefully and bring our actions closer to our objectives. Where to start?
Take the stressful as a challenge
Research whose results were recently published in the journal Journal of Individual Differences reveals that anxiety should not affect our performance in all possible situations, and even in some contexts potency. The secret, it seems, is how we link anxiety to our goals.
This research shows that people who they see anxiety as a challenge and not a threatThey feel motivated by this as they interpret it as a sign of progress. In other words, they turn their anxiety into well-channeled energy.
The secret is therefore to accept the anxiety and not to turn it into drama. People used to dealing with complex situations know that stress this is one of those challenges, and that’s why they are not afraid of itBut they recognize it as a normal part of their struggle to get to the situation they want to find themselves in.
To do the opposite can only lead us to stay in the comfort zone, by interpreting the slightest friction with the difficulties as a personal attack, which must be avoided at all costs. This latter style of thinking may seem more comfortable, but in reality it is not, as it forces us to remain in a passive and avoidant attitude, always focused on what can go wrong or what is already wrong (not try to solve).
In short, a moderate level of anxiety is not only normal, but also desirable: it is proof that we are improving in some ways, focusing on a goal that we slowly overcome thanks to good management of motivation and working time. As long as we know where the line between healthy and unhealthy is, stress can help us become useful people and members of society.
- Stack, J., Lopes, P., Esteves, F., and Fernández-Berrocal, P. (2017). Should we succeed? When anxiety increases motivation and performance. Journal of Individual Differences, 38, pages 113-124.