9 Ways Anxiety Can Be Your Greatest Source of Power
Anxiety is the realization you are outside your comfort zone but not because you planned to be.
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It seems every time we turn around someone is talking about how they "have" anxiety, as if all anxiety is a disorder. Well, it is not. There is a generalized anxiety we should all have. After all, we are floating around on a ball in the middle of space. How can that not be anxiety provoking? Anxiety can be our greatest power if we learn to work with it, rather than against it.
Pressure is a wonderful thing. It is when we’re under the intensity of high-pressured situations that we are the most alert. Our physiology responds automatically, putting us into the biological experience of fight-or-flight, where it feels like our very survival (reputation, closing a deal, promotion) may be at stake.
Another way to look at this is fight-or-flight experience is being "in the zone." When in this heightened state, we are sharply attuned to everything going on in our environment, and everything required of us to be successful. These do-or-die moments provoke us into action.
There is a large majority of us who do not respond unless we’re under intense pressure. Many procrastinators unconsciously allow for enough anxiety to build until they are forced into performing or face harsh consequences. Either way, when pressure creates positive movement, it is anxiety that fuels that action.
Success is all about risk. Without risk, and the natural anxiety that goes along with it, we would never get outside of our comfort zone long enough to make a difference.
Excitement and anxiety are often confused, causing some of us to erroneously interpret the intensity of excitement as negative. We must embrace the unfamiliar and what it feels like to be there. There is no comfort zone in life because, on some level, we are always facing the unknown. Success requires pushing through the fears and anxieties of our unknowns, allowing us to leap into them to see what they taste like. The more we do this, the easier it gets, and the more successful, confident and trusting of ourselves we become.
When we’re feeling “anxiety,” we could also simply be in touch with our gut instincts. There is a way through every challenge.
Oftentimes, the right answers grab our attention by shooting us up with doses of intense fear or anxiety. Fear shocks us into paying attention. The best response when experiencing intense anxiety is to slow down and give it a moment’s attention. The more we ignore our impulses, the more impulsive we become when making decisions. Take a moment. There is no urgency to act right now. When we slow down and listen to what is underneath the fear or anxiety, we are likely to come to the correct decisions.
We must learn to pause. Pausing helps us use our gut instincts to work smarter, not just harder.
The more anxious we are, the more responsible we tend to be with our time. As a side benefit, the more respectful we naturally are of other people’s time. When we’re anxious, it is largely because we want to make a good impression and give our best work. We desire to be seen as valuable, at the top of our game and essential to the success of the whole. This type of anxiety tends to make us great managers of time. We tend to be on time, or even ahead of time, when it comes to meetings and deadlines. Feelings of anxiety create the discomfort we need to get things done, acting much like an internal alarm clock.
Anxiety is a powerful tool when it comes to sensing and observing our environment and the people in it. It makes us more sensitive and perceptive to the subtleties in people, what their character may be, and if we can or cannot trust them. It operates much like a Morse Code. This is a true gift when trying to assess or predict the behavioral patterns of others. This hyper-awareness aids us in making better decisions in partners, in how we communicate, who we communicate with, and who we choose to bring in, or keep out of our network.
The more anxiety we have, the more our thoughts bounce from topic to the next. The more thoughts we entertain, the more innovative we have the potential of being. For this reason, it would be wise for us to carry a pen and paper with us at all times to release our thoughts onto paper without judgment. Once onto paper, these thoughts become separate things from us; allowing us to view them with more clarity. Writing helps us decipher the relevant from the irrelevant, and to move on the ideas that are the most innovative.
Nervous energy is incredibly productive when channeled correctly. We can use this energy to broaden our focus, and to take on more than one task at a time. Success takes endless energy, and a focus that is open, flexible and fast-moving.
If we mess up in the moment, we must be able to keep going, hit the ball in front of us, and use the pressure of our anxiety to keep us producing, and creating. Energy is attractive and contagious to others around us, so we must channel our energy into being as productive as possible; inspiring others to pick up their pace.
When we’re anxious, we become hyper-attuned to our position, which drives us improve ourselves and better our skills. Anxiety helps us see what we need to do to better stand out. We become motivated, based on these measurements, to work harder to get that raise, the bonus we want or the acknowledgement we crave. The thought of not reaching our goals, and the anxiety that brings is the motivating force we need for our advancement. Whenever we’re in competition, we don’t tend to let over thinking get in our way, we do what needs to be done at the critical moments. Therefore, we should choose to surround ourselves with people who are several steps above us, to inspire us to raise our own skill levels.
When we feel anxious, it brings us face-to-face with ourselves. It takes time and effort to work through our fears and doubts. There is no stronger force than anxiety to get us in touch with our inner coach. If we’re experiencing a tremendous amount of anxiety, our self-talk (inner coach) will get us to, at the very least, take the next step in our process. Once we make it to that next step, feel released from some of the pressure, we can better talk ourselves into the taking the next step. This is how we succeed; one-step-at-a-time.
Anxiety is 100 percent necessary, it’s healthy and consuming enough to drive us towards wanting more from of ourselves, our lives, business and other people. We would do well to avoid using natural, healthy anxiety as an excuse to under-perform, or to avoid the pressures of our responsibilities. We must be careful when throwing the word anxiety around in the workplace, as it may initially get us some empathy and more time to get our work done, but eventually this excuse will wear thin, and we will no longer be taken seriously.
Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.