3 Ways Your Anxiety Can Help You

Anxiety Can Help You

Roughly 2000 years ago, the Stoic philosopher Seneca explained the essence of anxiety well:

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Fast forward to today, I bet we suffer way more in imagination compared to when Seneca said that. Since that time, we have invented modern medicine and created a relatively safer civilization compared to ancient Rome. Yet, a lot of people still experience anxiety.

You can’t make your anxiety go away. But you can certainly use it as an asset. Here are 3 ways to do that.

1. Anxiety makes you mentally stronger

Anxiety could be the greatest source of motivation for you.

When we feel anxious, our brains are primed for action, and our senses are heightened. Instead of letting this energy consume you, channel it into something productive.

See every challenge or obstacle as an opportunity to train your mind and build resilience. Every time something bad happens to you, always tell yourself: “This is training.”

Remember that every obstacle you face is an opportunity to grow stronger. But only if you view it that way. Because I don’t believe in the platitude, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

If that was true, people who experienced trauma would be invincible. We must make a conscious effort to look at everything in life as training. This doesn’t come automatically.

You constantly have to tell yourself, “This is training.”

When you see it that way, you will get mentally stronger.

2. Anxiety is a change indicator

Being anxious about something can be a sign of a bigger problem.

For example, do you always feel anxious about going to work? This could indicate that you need to reassess your job or work environment. Do you always worry about money, or that you’re not making enough?

Use this opportunity to reflect on what may be causing your anxiety and make necessary changes in your life.

The point is not to let fear control you. Anxiety can often stem from a fear of the unknown or worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet. The Stoic, Musonius Rufus said it well:

“We will train both soul and body when we accustom ourselves to cold, heat, thirst, hunger, scarcity of food, hardness of bed, abstaining from pleasures, and enduring pains.”

You don’t need to take extreme measures like starving yourself, but if something causes you too much anxiety, see it as a sign to make a change.

Learn to embrace the resilience that comes from facing challenges. However, it’s important to recognize when to change something before you reach your breaking point.

3. Anxiety can make meditation easier

I think meditation is the best tool to beat anxiety. By simply sitting down, focusing on your breath, and observing your thoughts (which is essentially everything there is to meditation), you bring your anxious thoughts to the forefront.

You will see that thoughts are merely thoughts, nothing more.

Meditation allows you to quiet your mind and focus on the present moment instead of getting caught up in worries about the future. Marcus Aurelius said:

“When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group of harmony if you keep on going back to it.”

You can use apps to meditate or you can do it on your own (my personal favorite is The Waking Up app).

The most important thing I’ve learned about meditation is this: When you’re mentally blocked, meditation can do wonders.

Honestly, when you feel like you’re struggling mentally and you’re really anxious, you MUST meditate.

Because those thoughts that are raging in your mind are perfect targets for meditation practice.

Think of it this way. You have a weapon at your disposal (your mind), but you need targets to aim at. Well, those anxious thoughts are your ideal targets.

By observing your anxious thoughts, you will instantly get relief. You realize that those thoughts simply come and go.

When you understand on a deeper level that anxiety is like a flowing river, you let the river just flow. You don’t try to stop it.

That’s the problem for many of us. We try to stop the flow of our thoughts, so we struggle.

Use your anxiety for self-improvement

In science, we’ve learned that the most effective way of overcoming phobias and anxiety disorders is through exposure therapy. It’s the psychological equivalent of immunization, injecting small doses of stress to build immunity.

By deliberately exposing yourself to controlled levels of anxiety-inducing situations, you’re doing more than just surviving – you’re inoculating your psyche with resilience.

Never look at quitting or giving up as a solution. I’ve been there too. Just because writing as a career is hard, I wanted to give up many times. I often thought, “If I stop writing, I won’t have to go through the struggle anymore.”

Yeah, it’s a really smart solution! If you want to give up and sit in a room for the rest of your life, just do that.

Of course, that’s not an option. It’s all about managing your emotions. As the retired SEAL, Jocko Willink, said in his book, Extreme Ownership:

“Discipline equals freedom.”

Your anxiety isn’t a barrier; it’s your fuel for life.

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