Author: Justin Mckibben
Some would say “good things come to those who wait,” but others would add “only what is left by those who hustle.” Our characteristics can seem like virtues or defects depending on the lens through which they are examined, or the circumstances they arise from. There are always pros and cons, even if we have to take a very close look to find them. Sometimes, even the parts about ourselves we are most unsure of can be useful. So then what would be the advantages of anxiety?
How could our fear or stressful uncertainty help us? What good can come of being anxious? Here are 4 surprising advantages of anxiety.
Doubt and double-checking
This one is all about balance, which isn’t easy for those who struggle with anxiety. While it is true that following up is time consuming, sometimes the time is worth it. Anxiety causes you to doubt, which can lead to double-checking. That feeling of something not being quite right can have us taking inventory, and sometimes this helps us catch things we may have missed.
One of the advantages of anxiety here is there will be many occasions when your double-checking proves useful. How many times have you asked someone if they were OK, and they say they are, but then it turns out they aren’t? Doubt and double-checking might help you push past that pretense and get to the heart of the matter.
Also, if you are depending on someone else to complete a task. Sometimes people forget. Perhaps people are afraid to ask for help. Sometimes they are misinformed and need course correction. While micro-managing can be irritating, double-checking may help you find a problem before it becomes a problem.
Yes, you may end up experiencing unnecessary stress and worry. It may become annoying to others that you need constant reassurance. In extreme cases you could even have unnecessary medical investigations due to health anxiety, leading to injuries caused by medical investigations or treatments.
Again, it is all about balance. Even if reassurance is a good thing, you can still have too much of a good thing.
More careful and thoughtful
Fear is often not that useful to us, but it can be. Worry stems from fear, and the greatest danger of worry is that it is more likely to lead to inaction than it is to useful action. People who worry excessively are commonly overwhelmed by their anxieties. So much so, in fact, they ultimately don’t face their worries because resistance seems futile.
However, there are times when worry can actually be productive. The advantages of anxiety often have a lot to do with the idea of insurance. Like with any form of insurance, you are creating a back-up in case something happens, and this is useful. Just like with a car and an insurance policy, your anxiety may teach you to be more careful and protective.
That goes for your own peace of mind, your property and other people.
Worry also allows us to be more thoughtful of others, because we also come to worry about their well-being. Anxiety can help us be more conscious of our actions and how it will impact others, or how others will see us as a result. It can make us more compassionate and even more giving.
Strategic worrying is the best way to utilize this anxiety. It means making an honest evaluation of whether worrying is helping you on a case by case basis. If you connect worrying and positive behaviors, then the worrying may be worth it to you. If you are only stressing yourself without taking action, it is merely wasted energy.
Prepared when things aren’t OK
This goes with the first two advantages of anxiety quite naturally. Anxious people love to rely on the idea of better safe than sorry. They have checked and double checked; they have tried to be as careful as they can. So when things are difficult, or when things go wrong, they are definitely prepared.
When things do go wrong, people with anxiety almost have the unique position of a fortune teller being vindicated. They have had time to make sure back-up plans and safety-nets in place. At the very least, they have mentally prepared themselves for that worst-case scenario. Some of us who struggle with anxiety have almost built up immunity to it.
It is not so much to say that it is good to always expect the worst, because that can lead to compromising your standards and a willingness to settle where you shouldn’t. However, knowing that you have put things in place just in case is reassuring that you’ve done all you can. Then, even if things fail you cannot say you didn’t at least do your best.
So essentially, being prepared for when things go wrong shouldn’t be an excuse to prematurely accept defeat. Instead these advantages to anxiety give you a reason to take more action.
Excited when everything is OK
On the flip-side to that last point, another of the big advantages of anxiety is when you are surprised to learn that everything is OK. As we were saying, anxiety can have you preparing for the worst and jumping to negative conclusions, but when those premonitions don’t come to fruition, it is both relieving and exciting.
You basically give yourself a little rush with that experience of relief and happiness when you learn your fears have been averted, especially if your anxieties have almost convinced you that your nightmare scenario came true. That feeling of discovering everything isn’t what is seemed can be truly uplifting. This is probably the most gratifying of the advantages of anxiety.
It is nice when our expectations of a situation are exaggerated. We find some things are easier than we expect. Sometimes, this can make us even more proud of all the work we had done leading up to that moment because we overcame our fear, while still being prepared either mentally, physically or even financially not to come out OK.
As someone who has battled with anxiety a lot in life, I can say that knowing I was ready, even when I didn’t end up needing it, was an extremely gratifying feeling.