Yes, I did say ‘benefits'...
Everyone needs a little anxiety to function as a healthy human being. It lets us know where dangers may be lurking and increases our awareness of what is important to us. It can boost our performance and keep us safe.
However... when anxiety gets out of hand it can be a real problem. High anxiety can lead to panic attacks and melt downs and leave you feeling unable to cope with the simplest things. Constant background anxiety can be draining and, in the long term, lead to depression and even suicide.
But... It’s not all bad news. Once your anxiety problem is diagnosed and you start to learn to manage it effectively you find that it, and the strategies you learn to cope in a healthy way, have given you some real advantages that you didn’t expect.
These are some of the benefits I think I’ve got from my anxiety:
- Planning, preparation and organisational skills – If I’m not prepared I worry, so I’ve learned to plan meticulously. I even plan for things that may never happen.
- Reliability – I can’t bear to let people down, so, if it can be done it will be done.
- Honesty – I’m so convinced that I’ll never get away with anything that I’m extremely honest (well, apart from telling the truth about how I feel ).
- Foresight – I’ll have lain awake at night worrying about all possible eventualities, and quite a few impossible ones.
- Self awareness – I don’t think anyone could tell me anything negative about myself that I didn’t already know. I’m my harshest critic. As part of my recovery I’m beginning to start to value my strengths too. I’m also working on accepting a compliment.
- Problems solving skills – see 1 and 4
- Diplomacy – I hate arguments. It doesn’t mean I don’t have them, but I’m very keen for a positive outcome. There have been times when I think I could have taught the United Nations a thing or two.
- Empathy – I think that when you’ve been through tough times you can understand the things that others are going through a little better. Also, being a bit over sensitive means I’m constantly watching people’s reactions and can often pick up on emotions quite quickly.
- Acting Skills – see 3. I learned to hide my feelings and fears at an early age.
- Things turn out better then I expect – Well, they couldn’t really turn out worse, could they?
- Positive Thinking – I’ve had to work hard to find the positives in life and counteract my natural tendency to gloom, doom and despondency. It is still a conscious effort, but better than the alternative.
- Independence – When your problems are mostly in your head you have to rely on yourself to sort them out. Others can give hints, tips or techniques and medication can help, but in the end it’s up to you how you cope with it all. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need help and support, but you need to take control yourself. That’s where the planning skills are invaluable. Plan for the times when you won’t be feeling so good when you’re well. Make sure those closest to you know what you’d like to happen when they spot the signs that something may be going wrong.
- Understanding the power of belief – When I was at my worst I believed bad things about myself and the world, and that made me very ill. As I’m recovering I’m beginning to believe more positive things. It’s making a huge difference.
- Strength – When I look back, and see how far I have come I can start to appreciate how strong I really am. That doesn’t mean I won’t fail again, but I think at least now I can give myself credit for getting back on my feet each time.
- Fearlessness – Well, perhaps not quite, but, when you’re afraid of just about everything it can be almost the same as being afraid of nothing. It just takes a bit more effort.