So How Do We Turn Our Worry Into A Superpower?
First and foremost, we must accept the notion that anxiety is inherently an adaptive emotion.
It is designed to alert us to danger and give us the energy to manage the issue and find a solution. If we are anxious and worrying about something, there is a reason. There is something on the other end of that worry that we fear will be a negative outcome, or perhaps we fear the loss of a potentially positive outcome. We gain nothing by ignoring that worry. If anything, it will only make our worry worse.
We must listen to our body, mind and emotions and resolve to identify and solve the problem we face. To be sure, sometimes that problem is simply that we tend to be a bit more amped up in general, and need to manage our biology to soothe our racing mind. But often we are worrying about something specific in the world around us. Either way, it behooves us to listen to our anxiety and worry rather than dismiss it.
Second, we must recognize that worry is only counterproductive if we feel shame about it, attempt to suppress it, and don’t use it as a force of “good” in our life.
Think about how powerful and focusing worry is. It is something that breaks through our concentration on other issues, and forces us to think solely about the topic of our worry. And we can worry for long periods of time as we struggle with our fears. Now, this can be unhelpful if we are worrying without focusing our attention on problem-solving. On the other hand, if we use the time that we would spend worrying on finding a solution, the energy behind the worry will give us strength and focus to address the issue we face.
Let’s take a situation that causes many people to feel anxious and worried — public speaking. When we have a public speaking engagement, we may start to feel anxious and worry that we will somehow be evaluated in a negative way. Perhaps we are concerned we won’t seem competent and knowledgeable, be interesting or funny, or otherwise compelling.
Worse, we may be afraid we’ll say something offensive. If we are told by a well-intentioned colleague or friend to calm down, or that we’ll do fine, we may listen to that feedback, we will suppress this internal debate. But if we listen to our anxiety and embrace our worry, a more productive process begins. We can not only identify the feared outcomes, but also the areas where we feel we may want to think through and practice our talk.
We may spend a couple of hours beforehand practising our talk in the mirror, or to other people. We may consider possible questions from the audience and how we would answer those questions. We may listen back to taped practices of our talk to hear how we sound. All of these problem-solving strategies will be motivated by worry and anxiety. But addressing our fear head-on will most likely produce a better and more effective talk.
Next, it is useful if we anticipate our worry and identify a specific process for dealing with worry through problem-solving.
Everyone may have a nuanced way of problem-solving. But generally speaking, there are four useful steps that people can undertake.
A) recognize that we are anxious,
B) determine why we are anxious,
C) identify possible problem solving and coping strategies, and
D) evaluate which strategies work best for us.
If we use our anxiety and worry as an opportunity to address real problems in our life, and hone our problem-solving skills, over time we will be able to more quickly translate our fear into an effective change in our life.
And finally, we must seek out people who will nurture our superpower, rather than try to shut it down. We can find people who we feel are helpful and understanding of our anxiety and worry and develop a process by which they can help us through a difficult time. This will help us not be concerned that our anxiety and worry will be met with insistence that we calm down, but rather be heartened that our anxiety and worry will be the beginning of an effective, solutions-oriented strategy to our lives.
So, guess what? We don’t need to calm down.
We need to embrace our worry as our new superpower.
Are you ready to do it?
Written by: Michael Friedman, Ph.D Originally appeared on: Hardcorehumanism.com Republished with permission