Anxiety has a bad rap. It’s time to take a look at the other side of it.
Let’s face it: just the word “anxiety” has a negative connotation. Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and agoraphobia are tied to undesirable feelings like worry, sadness and fear.
Negative, negative, negative.
When my breath shortens before a presentation, when I wake up in the middle of the night with a painfully tight chest, or when I’m white-knuckled driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it’s hard to feel anything else but like utter shit.
But when I take a moment to reflect on these emotional patterns I experience daily, there’s a big part of me that is actually grateful for my anxiety and panic.
Besides the fact that it makes me me (Type-A worrywart and all), I’ve learned that not everything that comes with anxiety is bad. Some things are good – like really, really good.
1. Academic + professional successes
Rather than only being considered a burden, anxiety may actually help you feel more motivated and prepared when faced with challenges. Research shows that students and athletes with some level of anxiety displayed improved performance on tests or while participating in competitive sports. Throughout school, I was always a straight-A student, which allowed me to get into the college of my dreams (Go Gators!). This lead to scoring some pretty amazing jobs so far in my career, including my current role in marketing.
Now, my anxiety wasn’t the only reason for the above-mentioned successes. I work my butt off day-in and day-out and have been blessed with an amazing support system … but, my anxiety wouldn’t allow me to fail in school or at work. I feel the need to be prepared in order to perform well in most situations. This is probably a trait of being a little bit of a perfectionist, too (which is not always a good thing!), but I’m truly grateful for how it has helped me get to where I am today.
2. Increased self-awareness
Ten years ago, I started going to therapy to help me understand my anxious feelings and daily panic attacks, and to this day, I’m still going strong. I’m a firm believer in the positive impact of therapy (more on that here), but my biggest takeaway from going? The increase in my self-awareness.
What situations trigger me into a downward spiral of stress and worry? How do I cope with tragedy? Is my anxiety affecting others? Therapy has helped me answer all of these questions and allowed me to mature, understand and love myself in ways I never knew were possible. Would I have ever gone to therapy if I didn’t face mental health struggles in college? Who knows.
3. Empathy and compassion
Anxiety is all-too common, and it seems especially so for my generation. In fact, a 2018 study revealed that millennials are by and large the most anxious generation. Some of my closest friends and family members have suffered from a mental health disorder. For anyone who has had to overcome these struggles, you know it’s not easy to talk about with others.
My mental health journey of learning and overcoming Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder has allowed me to understand what others have gone or are going through. It allows me to see the other side of things and dig deeper into why certain people react in certain ways. I am so, so grateful to have found an all-new level of empathy and compassion.
4. The passion to help others
I love writing. I love this blog. I love sharing my thoughts, experiences and the lesson I’ve learned. A couple of weeks ago, it really hit me that my message is resonating with others when one of my images went viral on Facebook (it has over 200K shares!).
When starting adventures & anxiety, my goal was to help, inspire and be there for at least one other … And without living through my own struggles, I would never be able to share my story, relate to others and live my dream.
It can be so easy to only see the negative side of having a mental health disorder. But if you dig deep, I’m sure you can see and embrace the positives, too!
Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.