Confronting the Anxiety Within

Everyone experiences anxiety on some level. It’s a natural human instinct, a defensive reaction that let’s us know something significant is happening, or more specifically, about to happen. It’s meant to serve a positive purpose, warning us to stay away from a harmful situation, reminding us to take our actions seriously, and/or honing our focus and reflexes.

But for many, anxiety exists as an ongoing force of negativity.

It becomes a sensation so powerful that it paralyzes you, hindering your performance or stopping from even trying. If you find yourself disruptively anxious, you’re not alone. Over 40 million US adults deal with an anxiety-related disorder.

That’s 19% of all people over the age of 18.

While it’s good to know you’re not alone, it doesn’t do much to reduce your anxiety. So what exactly can you do about it?

What Anxiety is (and Isn’t)

Anxiety triggers our body’s fight or flight response, flooding our brain with hormones such as cortisol. This increases heart-rate, reflexes, and breathing speed, leaving you tense and ready to act.

However, the sudden rush of feelings and awareness can overwhelm you, leading to fear, hesitation, doubt, exhaustion, and more.

Interestingly, anxiety and excitement are practically the same thing, producing many of the same neurological responses. The key difference is that we view anxiety as a negative, while excitement as seen as a positive feeling.

This is actually good news for people who experience regular situational anxiety.

photo by Alexander Lam

Making Your Anxiety Work for You

Because of the fine line between anxiety and excitement, it’s possible to make yourself switch from one feeling to the other. In fact, it’s much easier for your body to change from anxiousness to excitement than it is to calm yourself down from anxiety.

Multiple studies by one Harvard professor showed that by simply saying “I’m excited”, subjects performed better in a multitude of environments, from public performance to test taking.

Another study showed that when students were told that anxiety helped people perform better on tests,  they scored higher on a math exam.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution to anxiety. If you require precise motor functions, for example if you’re playing an instrument, both excitement and anxiety can make things tricky. 

As for those with more severe anxiety disorders, their feelings of anxiousness often arise without cause, making them more difficult to change into positive excitement. In these cases, additional external help might be required.

Figuring Out if You Need Help for Your Anxiety

Knowing when to seek professional help for your anxiety can be difficult. As we said, anxiety is natural, and it can be used as a positive. Additionally, those with anxiety disorders often grow numb to the feeling, leaving themselves unaware that they’re even anxious.

If you find yourself regularly on edge for no particular reason, or trivial events leave you paralyzed in fear, you may have an anxiety disorder. The best thing to do is to talk to someone about it. A professional counselor or therapist can help determine whether or not your anxiety is normal, what might be causing it, and how you can deal with it.

You can easily find a counselor that specializes in anxiety therapy with Torrch. Not a Torrch member yet? Don’t worry. It’s free to join and use. Confront your anxiety today.

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