From an evolutionary perspective, anxiety is important. The feeling of fear and uncertainty helped our caveman ancestors think twice about doing things, like jumping off a cliff. Anxiety allowed them to anticipate a danger or threat and avoid it before suffering the consequences. We may not have survived as a species without it.
In small doses, anxiety is meant to keep us safe. But for those of us who live with an anxiety disorder, we know it can be downright relentless. There’s danger and uncertainty around every corner. We must remain vigilant because, at any moment, we could lose it all.
That’s the anxiety talking.
Although anxiety is a major pain — to put it mildly — it does still do a pretty good job of keeping a person safe. I took stock in the list below of all the times my anxiety was on point.
1. Helps me avoid bodily harm
Those of us with anxiety aren’t exactly daredevils. I’ve never broken a bone. In fact, I’ve never even needed a single stitch in my entire life. The reason for this is equal parts luck and anxiety. Hey, you can’t fall if you don’t jump!
As a kid, I actively avoided monkey bars, Rollerblades, or any other daring activity I thought might result in injury. It took one hard fall off my two-wheeler for me to avoid that dangerous mode of transportation for a few years.
As an adult, I’ve never been skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, skydiving, or water skiing. Notice a pattern here? My rational brain knows these are safe activities as long as you’re taking the proper precautions. But my anxiety brain says, “Nope, you stay far away from that — you will definitely break a major bone or fall to your death.”
Message received, anxiety.
2. Keeps my finances in order
I’m extremely careful when it comes to managing my money. I’m always afraid there’ll be a “rainy day.” What if another recession hits? What if the car breaks down? What if I suddenly have a medical emergency and bills pile up?
Anxiety helps me run through every scenario of financial ruin each time I pull out the credit card or checkbook. So many reasons to shop in the clearance section and avoid overcharging the credit card.
On the upside, my credit is good.
3. Makes me eat healthy
Being a health writer with anxiety is a funny thing. It’s a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I get to learn lots of really useful health and lifestyle information. On the other, there are so many things that can go wrong in your body! What if some major health crisis is slowly brewing in me right now, and I don’t even know it? Thinking about you, heart disease. (That’s the anxiety again.)
Anxiety lit a fire under my butt to clean up my diet and get more physically active. In the process, I actually learned cardio helps tame the anxiety. So, this one worked out pretty well.
4. Keeps my driving record clean
I probably had driving anxiety before I learned how to drive. As a teen and young adult driver, my peers would often tease me, saying I drove like an old lady. They weren’t wrong. I drove a family-sized Buick, freaked out when I went more than 5 miles over the speed limit, and sat all the way up in my seat clenching the steering wheel.
But we never got into an accident and I’ve only ever had one speeding ticket. That counts for something, right?
5. Stops me from making impulsive decisions
Having anxiety means you come prepared. You have to consider every possible outcome or angle before making a major decision. Because what if it’s the wrong decision and you ruin everything?
I’m trying to think of a significant decision I’ve made without a thorough analysis or overanalysis and I’m drawing a blank. I’ve actually made pro and con lists before ending or entering a relationship.
There’s an itinerary for every trip, a working plan in case a situation goes poorly, and endless to-do lists when you roll with me.
Life with anxiety isn’t easy, especially in a modern world where we’re constantly plugged into the news cycle. Some days it’s okay. Other days it just sucks.
But since I can’t snap my fingers and make it disappear, I can at least take comfort in the fact that it gets some things right. On the bad days, in addition to some deep breathing, it can help to take stock of the ways anxiety isn’t being a jerk.