The Positives and Practicalities of Anxiety

Even for the most confident and established professionals, times of anxiety are a regular part of the job. For young professionals (YPs), still working to establish themselves and build up confidence, occurrences of heart-racing uncertainty are even more common. But while anxiety is often touted as something negative, even harmful to our success and well-being, there are also positive ways to utilize it to our advantage. If you are part of the vast group of YPs who suffer from frequent mild to moderate anxiety, check these notable tips to help harness that powerful emotion and reap its surprising rewards:

Acknowledgment, reflection, awareness   
First thing’s first: anxiety must be given its due. In other words, anxiety occurs for a reason and that reason must be paid some attention. Characterized by both the physical and psychological symptoms, anxiety results from feelings of being threatened in some way. Thus, the presence of anxiety acts as a powerful indicator of our fears and offers us a wonderful opportunity to get to know what we are afraid of and, more importantly, why. Look to your preferred method of self-reflection (i.e. writing, walking, meditation, therapy, physical activity) to dive into what’s going on with or around you in that moment, and the reasons why your body and mind may be reacting in such a way. Ask yourself questions, let all those inner voices speak, and indulge in the enriching dialogue that is sure to teach you something new about yourself. As a physical and mental manifestation of our inner workings, anxiety is a very handy tool along our important journey toward self-awareness.  

Take advantage of the rush  
The physical signs of mild to moderate anxiety normally include an elevated heart rate, quickened respiration, trembling extremities, and overall restlessness due to a surge of adrenaline (part of the body’s natural reaction to stress). Sure, such sensations don’t lend themselves well to activities like studying or reading, or sitting in a boardroom all day, but they can be useful in other ways. When recognizing the onset of anxiety, plan to use that energized state to motivate, invigorate, and inspire yourself. Take advantage of the rush by getting active or creative. Go for a workout, clean your office, write a rant, start a new project; just be sure to do something that makes use of that anxiety and also helps alleviate it.  

Take pride
Further, while the word anxiety is often thrown around like it’s a bad thing, take heed in knowing that when we feel anxious it’s also just an indication that we care. Experiencing anxiety simply means that we have concern for our well-being, our success, and ourselves. When we get anxious before a big presentation or a first date, it is not a sign of weakness, but a show of respect and regard for ourselves and our life. So take pride in those butterflies and sweaty palms – it means you are alive and that you are taking chances.

When it’s severe
With the positives of anxiety laid out, it’s also important to recognize that anxiety is no longer practical when it reaches a severe level. For some YPs, a rapid heartbeat, fast breathing and tingling limbs can actually become overpowering and debilitating. If you suffer from anxiety that prohibits you from doing the things you enjoy or from succeeding at your job, you might actually have an anxiety disorder that may require professional assistance. Anxiety disorders such as Social Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are not uncommon (affecting about 12% of Canadians), and are certainly treatable. The Anxiety Disorders Association offers helpful resources for those suffering from anxiety disorders.