Happy positive justice defender flexing arms as a sign of strength while standing on blue background. Proud and tough looking young adult superhero woman showing empowerement and braveness.
Ba Bunansa - Online Therapist in Dallas TX

Ba Bunansa, MS, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
I am an LGBTQIA+-affirming therapist for Texas teens, adults, and the AAPI community. I work with teens and adults online throughout Texas and in person for residents of Plano and surrounding areas.

Anxiety as a strength? How? In the face of social media, those of us who live with anxiety no longer have to do so in isolation. Anxiety disorders have become commonplace fodder for content online. Memes, funny tweets, and TikToks abound from creators who also struggle with feeling anxious on a regular basis. 

As a result, it’s become more acceptable to talk about the struggles that come with anxiety and seek accommodations in offline situations, too. 

This is a great thing. Removing shame from any mental health struggle is a critical part of living with that struggle… And if memes can help us get there, then so be it.

But all of this acceptance and talk of anxiety still largely focuses on it as a bad thing—something to overcome. 

And while we absolutely want to make it clear there are strategies and coping mechanisms available for managing a condition that’s often really tough to deal with, it’s also worth looking at anxiety in its full form. 

That means acknowledging the ways in which we can see anxiety as a strength, too.

(Stick with me, here.)

What Is Anxiety, Actually?

First, let’s refresh our memories on what anxiety actually is and how it works within our body.

Anxiety is a complex emotional and physiological response to perceived threats or stressors. It’s a normal and healthy reaction that prepares the body in the face of danger or uncertainty. 

Anxiety depends on biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Biologically, it involves the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response. This response allows the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. 

These physical changes prepare us to either fight that tiger in the jungle or run like heck away from it.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Anxiety

At the psychological level, anxiety involves the perception of threat or danger. This perception can be influenced by past experiences, current stressors, and deeply-held beliefs or biases. For example, someone who has experienced a traumatic event may be more likely to perceive danger in similar situations in the future. 

Basically, if you associate something that happens as a threat, then it doesn’t matter if it actually is—your body can begin an anxious reaction, just the same.

Environmental factors can also play a role in anxiety. That tiger in the jungle or more modern life events, such as job loss or relationship problems, can be stressful and trigger anxiety. 

While anxiety can be a normal and healthy response, it can also become problematic when it interferes with daily life. This is the part we know well. We recognize that our anxiety ramping up when we have to send an email or make a phone call, for example, isn’t exactly what nature intended…

But we don’t often consider the ways in which our anxiety speaks to the kind of person we are inside, outside of just worrying all the time.

Six Ways To See Anxiety as a Strength

Out of our more than 6,000 daily thoughts, a large percentage of them are negative. This underscores an important point: our brains don’t care if we’re happy, as long as we’re safe. 

It’s funny to think about, right? Consciously, we spend so much of our time seeking happiness—but the main function of our brain is to keep our very three-dimensional body safe

The presence of anxiety means our brain is trying to do exactly that. 

Because of this, our anxiety can absolutely be a source of strength. From awareness to empathy and creativity, here are six ways we can see anxiety as a strength, and how you can harness its power for personal and professional growth.

1. Anxiety gives us heightened awareness.

Anxiety can make us more alert and attentive to our surroundings. The feeling of anxiety can increase our focus and concentration, allowing us to quickly identify potential threats and react to them. 

Now, emails and phone calls aside, this built-in warning system can kick in when it’s supposed to, as well. It’s useful in situations where we need to be vigilant, like when driving, crossing a busy street, or walking alone at night. It can help us stay safe and identify dangerous situations. 

And then there’s just general awareness of our surroundings. Sometimes, this means we can better appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world around us. And that has the potential to increase our gratitude and happiness.

2. Anxious people are detail-oriented. 

People with anxiety tend to be detail-oriented and have a strong sense of responsibility. We’re often very thorough in our work, ensuring that everything is done to the best of our ability. This level of attention to detail can be an advantage in so many professions—like medicine, law, or engineering—where accuracy and precision are crucial. 

Attention to detail can also build trust and reliability in personal relationships. People who pay close attention to the details of their interactions with others are more likely to notice and respond to subtle changes in mood, behavior, and communication, which can lead to deeper and more meaningful relationships.

Sometimes, in other words, being the “too sensitive” one also means you’re a great listener and birthday remember-er.

3. Anxiety = empathy.

Anxiety can make us more sensitive—or empathetic—to the emotions of others. When we’re anxious, we may be more attuned to the feelings of those around us and better able to offer support and comfort. 

People who are empathetic are more likely to be able to understand and connect with others, which can lead to more fulfilling and successful relationships and interactions. Empathy can also be an asset in leadership roles, as it enables us to better understand, motivate, and support our teammates. 

4. If we’re anxious, we’re often prepared.

People with anxiety tend to be good at anticipating potential problems and planning for contingencies. They may be more likely to prepare for worst-case scenarios, which can be an advantage in situations where being prepared can make all the difference. 

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, some anxious folks actually felt calmer—because moving into preparation mode wasn’t unusual for them, even if the particular circumstance was.

Anxiety’s tendency to keep us prepared can be useful in both professional and personal settings…  Anywhere being proactive and planning ahead can help avoid potential problems. 

Ultimately, people who are prepared are more likely to be confident and calm in the face of uncertainty. They may benefit from better decision-making and a greater sense of control. This can make them really good helpers, too.

5. Anxiety can fuel creativity.

Believe it or not, anxiety can fuel creativity! The intense emotions and experiences associated with anxiety can generate a sense of urgency and intensity that can be channeled into creative expression. This can lead to unique and innovative ideas and works of art that might not have been possible without the intensity of anxiety. 

Creativity can also be a form of self-expression and a way to cope with difficult emotions, which can be a source of healing and growth.

6. Our anxiety is often our motivator.

Anxiety can be a powerful motivator. It can push us to work harder, strive for excellence, and achieve our goals. 

When channeled in a positive direction, anxiety can be a great source of energy and drive. By harnessing the energy and motivation that anxiety provides, people can accomplish great things and reach their full potential. People who are motivated by anxiety are more likely to be persistent, resilient, and determined in the face of adversity, which can lead to greater success and fulfillment in life.

We can also choose to see our anxiousness as a kind of challenge—a way to test our limits. As we do, we can start down a path of personal growth and self-discovery, which can boost our confidence, wisdom, and happiness overall.

When Anxiety Becomes a Problem…

So, in some ways, our anxiety makes us superheroes… Does this mean we should give in to our anxiety all the time and never push back against our anxious feelings?

Of course not. 

Anxiety can become a not-tiny problem if it interferes with daily life and causes significant stress or upset. 

Some signs that anxiety has become problematic may include:

  • Excessive worry or fear that is difficult to control;
  • Avoidance of situations or activities due to fear or anxiety;
  • Physical symptoms such as muscle tension, fatigue, or gastrointestinal distress;
  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping;
  • Irritability or restlessness; or
  • Panic attacks or a feeling of impending doom.

No one wants to deal with that level of anxiety on a regular basis—and you don’t have to. 

If you find that anxiety is impacting your ability to function at work, school, or in your personal relationships, you can seek professional help to bring your anxiety back to a place where it’s manageable (and bringing those good things to your life, too). 

Anxiety Is Part of What Makes You Who You Are

Anxiety isn’t all of you—but it is a part of you.

It’s not a part of you to feel ashamed of, and it’s not something you should feel pressured to “get rid of,” either. It’s not a sign of weakness—in fact, it can make you a pretty cool person, in a lot of ways. 

So even though this superhero quality may not make us feel super all the time, it’s still working the way it’s meant to. Your feelings of anxiety are really data points to clue you in to your deeper instincts and help inform the choices you make throughout the day.

Accepting, embracing, and celebrating who we are means accepting, embracing, and celebrating all the different things that add up to who we are, too. 

And if anxiety is one of those, then that’s a-okay. 💪

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Ba Bunansa - Online Therapist in Dallas TX

Ba Bunansa, MS, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
I am an LGBTQIA+-affirming therapist for Texas teens, adults, and the AAPI community. I work with teens and adults online throughout Texas and in person for residents of Plano and surrounding areas.

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