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Why Anxiety Can (Sometimes) Be A Good Thing

I wake up at 5am on a Monday morning feeling strange. It's been a few weeks since my last speaking event and with one this evening, I find the nerves are already kicking in. It's a low stakes event, just a local banquet, but I find my heart rate is already beginning to tick upwards.

I try going back to sleep, but questions start to form in my mind. Did you finish the slides? Did you rehearse your Power Rangers story enough? When was the last time you looked over your second application?

Even after speaking for over a decade, I still get anxious before a keynote. However, the level of anxiety and nerves varies greatly. When I'm prepared and properly rehearsed, I still sleep well and find the nerves begin to kick in a few hours before the event. When I'm relying too much on my laurels and haven't put the time in, my anxiety arrives early to remind me to prepare properly.

Anxiety has gotten a bad rap the past few years, and for good reason. It can be a debilitating mental health disorder that prevents people from leading normal, joyous lives. But we can't write it off completely.

It's important to remember that anxiety is a natural response and that it serves a purpose- often to help prepare us for something important.

A healthy level of anxiety can create good stress in our bodies, otherwise known as "eustress." Eustress can help keep us motivated to pursue goals and even bring us a certain level of excitement we may not otherwise feel without it.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law tells us that with the correct levels of anxiety can even increase our performance. Be it an academic test, sporting event, or presentation, the right amount of anxiety will help ensure we are prepared to do our best.

About halfway through delivering the Power Rangers story to my audience on Monday I had to pause for a moment. I always get caught up on one tricky detail and end up skipping a line.

I think back to that morning, having rehearsed it in my living room another three times, and nail the line that I usually forget. I continue on, no one noticing the pause but me, and silently thank my anxiety for the help.


Neurotic people do better in group or team-work, while extroverted people do worse


Notice the next time you're feeling anxious. Instead of trying to "cope" your way out of it, ask yourself, "What is my anxiety trying to tell me?"


What can anxiety help you with this week?


“Without anxiety, little would be accomplished,” David Barlow, founder of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University.

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