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Anxiety Can Help Us—Here’s How to Make It Work for You

Anxiety Can Help Us—Here’s How to Make It Work for You

Successful people at the pinnacle of their careers often find themselves juggling more things at home and at work and struggling with stress. But what if anxiety could be transformed into an asset? Dr. Chloe Carmichael, the author of the self-help book “Nervous Energy,” said there are ways and tools to redirect anxiety into productive change.

“A lot of people don’t understand that anxiety does have a healthy function, which is to stimulate preparation behaviors,” Carmichael said. When patients ask her to help them get rid of their anxiety, she explains it would be like asking to get rid of all their body fat. In other words, she said, “it’s true that if it becomes excessive, it can be unhealthy, but we actually need certain amounts of it in order to function at our best.”

Instead, when they experience an anxious impulse or feeling, rather than wishing the stress away, Carmichael encourages them to dialogue with the anxiety and ask it, “What is the healthy action that you could be stimulating me to take?”

(Sander Sammy/Unsplash)

Say, for example, that a job candidate is apprehensive about an interview. In this case, taking a deep breath and dreaming of a beach would not help. Instead, Carmichael advised, he or she would be best served by looking “at the extra adrenaline and awareness that comes with anxiety and [saying], ‘Well, maybe I’m going to use this energy to make a list of the questions I anticipate they’ll ask me, and I’ll work out some answers to them. And I’ll try a mock interview with a friend.’”

Next time you get symptoms like a racing heart or sweaty palms, keep in mind that “oftentimes it’s just a raw excess of energy that could actually be used to our favor, if we know how to shape it strategically.”

Learning to harness this nervous energy not only decreases stress in that particular moment, but it also shapes a positive thought spiral and sets up a growth mindset that ultimately leads to more productivity and fulfillment.

“Nervous Energy” by Dr. Chloe Carmichael (St. Martin’s Essentials, 2021).

Authentic Self-Care

A day off from work or some time at the spa is often part of a self-care self-prescription. But Dr. Chloe says self-care can be much more strategic. Enter her “To-Do List With Emotions” technique. Here’s what to do:

Look at your to-do list.
Think of what emotions come up with each item (for example, a stressful situation).
Have a self-care plan that’s specific to the emotion (schedule an event with friends right afterward to provide social support).

She adds this reminder: “Self-care can actually also be making sure that we drink in life’s positive events, too, because the joy, the happiness, and the fulfillment, those are all there to balance out some of the challenges.”

Epoch Times Photo (Nik/Unsplash)

If You Can’t Stop Worrying

Depending on the type of worry you’re experiencing, Dr. Chloe has the following tips.

Dealing With Dead-End Topics

If the topic is a problem that you’ve already learned from, but that your mind keeps on reliving, use the Mental Shortlist technique. Redirect your mental energy into a list of five things you can work on. The list can be broad, from holiday shopping to making weekend plans.

Find the Right Place, the Right Time

Some worries pop up when you can’t do anything about them, such as when you’re in the grocery line and suddenly you remember that you haven’t revised your will in a long time. In that case, use the Worry Time technique. Set aside a time to address those worries. It might be 10 minutes a day for some people; for others, an hour a week. Since you know your concerns will be addressed at a set time with your undivided attention, you’re then free to relax in the moment.

This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.

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