How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
If you live with anxiety, then you likely know all too well how quickly it can take over your life. But what if we told you that you could reframe the way you view your anxiety? Imagine how different your life could be, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.
“Much of what I teach my clients isn’t about getting rid of anxiety, but rather changing their relationship to it,” says Karly Hoffman King, MA, a licensed professional counselor.
“Anxiety [by itself] is neither good or bad, it just is,” she adds.
The way we respond to anxiety can make or break how it impacts our lives. That’s why King says being able to open up to it, as opposed to designing our life around trying not to experience it, can be a transformative skill.
While you may not necessarily overcome anxiety, you can find ways to accept and work with it. In fact, you may even be able to find ways anxiety can make you more powerful.
Here, five people share their experiences living with anxiety and how they use their new relationship with anxiety to feel more empowered.
1. Anxiety acts as a protective mechanism
“One approach to using anxiety to empower ourselves is to understand it as a message about our own needs. When we start to notice where and when it shows up, we can start trying to understand what it’s trying to tell us.
We can also use anxiety as a protective mechanism to help us keep ourselves safe. As a fight-or-flight instinct, anxiety might be your body’s way of letting you know that you’re in the proximity of danger. Emotional danger is just as threatening to our health and happiness as physical danger, and anxiety — though unpleasant — can be used as a very helpful built-in warning system.”
— Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC
2. Anxiety helps me balance work and life
“The biggest gift that anxiety gives me is that it forces me to live in greater work-life balance, and this has allowed me to enjoy and experience life more fully. I simply can’t sustain the workload that I used to because of my anxiety. I probably could, with medication; however, I choose to use natural, evidence-based methods and I’ve adjusted my lifestyle [to manage the anxiety].
Specifically, I use a combination of acupuncture, yoga, and expressive art making (art therapy techniques) and I’ve slowed my pace down. As a result, I’m healthier in general, and the art and yoga leave me feeling more connected to myself. While I’m grateful that it can be managed, I can also honestly say that I’m better off as a result of having chronic anxiety.”
— Jodi Rose, credentialed art therapist, board-certified counselor, and yoga instructor
3. Anxiety helps me see that what I feel is also excitement
“Anxiety can be used as a powerful motivator. Instead of saying ‘I feel anxious,’ you can re-frame this and say ‘I feel excited.’ Once you have this mindset, you can become highly motivated to deal with whatever is making you feel anxious.
The feelings of anxiety and excitement are actually very similar. If you choose to experience excitement, you can go a long way.”
— Jon Rhodes, clinical hypnotherapist
4. Anxiety is a powerful motivator for me
“An anxious person and an excited person are going through similar experiences. The only difference is in how they interpret what’s happening. For years, I struggled with anxiety, perfectionism, self-hatred. When I learned to channel those patterns into helping people, writing, and working on self-awareness, something magical happened.
What used to be crippling anxiety turned into wide-eyed motivation. What used to be self-defeating perfectionism turned into artistic vision. What used to be self-hatred turned into a balance of self-love and self-honesty. This kind of alchemy is possible for anyone. I’ve watched it happen in myself and my clients. It’s magical, and it’s real.”
— Vironika Tugaleva, life coach, speaker, and personal-growth writer
5. Anxiety helps me manage high-pressure situations
“I suffer from severe anxiety and have since I was 15 years old. I’d been prescribed various medications before taking a more natural approach. I’ve learned to value my anxiety because it’s caused me to excel in high-pressure situations.
When most people are overwhelmed, I’m used to having to deal with constant stress and anxiety; it’s not a new place for me to be. It’s led to me better leadership positions, to the point where I not only deal with my anxiety but I help others deal with theirs.”
— Calvin McDuffie, health and wellness coach
Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.