“How to use anxiety to your advantage”

Originally posted in our October 2022 Top of Mind Newsletter.

If someone asked you if you feel anxious often, it’s a fair assumption that you would say, “yes, absolutely!” Anxiety, both the medical diagnosis and the general feeling, seems to have increased over the last two decades. In this piece from the BBC in October 2022, author Tracy Dennis-Tiwary discusses the role of strong emotions, namely anxiety, in how we interact with the world.

“[E]motions are tools for survival, forged and refined over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to protect and ensure that humans can thrive. They do this by providing two things: information and preparation.”

So, when you are feeling anxious, your body is telling you something. The signals from your body and mind can, given the right framing of the situation, offer you a means of preparing yourself for uncertainty rather than being frozen by the unknown. Much of how we view anxiety has to do with how we frame our personal narrative. We look to avoid, rather than experience, our feelings, especially when they are feelings of stress and discomfort.

So what is to be done? Well, as Soren Kierkegaard suggests, “Whosoever learns to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” By flipping the script on how we think about our anxiety, we can learn to harness anxiety and other strong emotions to their full evolutionary potential.

Let’s reframe the narrative.