The Purpose of Anxiety
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Anxiety doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can keep us motivated to move forward when we feel stuck or keep us safe in a dangerous situation.
Remember that thing that you have been procrastinating on for weeks? Always in the back of your head. Eventually, we get so uncomfortable with the anxiety that we get motivated to finally push forward. This can help us complete tasks at work/home, talk to a friend about a conflict or start to make a lifestyle change.
Anxiety happens when our brain sends a signal to our vagus nerve to go on red alert. This means our heart rate increases, breathing quickens and our blood flows faster. This prepares our body for fight or flight.
When we are in danger, we need our body to respond with fight or flight to keep us safe. There are a variety of fight or flight responses. Fight can literally mean fighting off a tiger or it can mean snapping at a stranger in the store after they ram their cart into yours. The same goes for a flight response. We can flee by dissociating or by leaving the room. Having these anxious responses can be a protection for those who have experienced a trauma.
When we go through a threatening event, our brain and body remembers the fear and pain. Our system then problem solves how to keep us safe in future, similar situations. How amazing that our system can keep us safe like that?
It is important to use coping skills when we are anxious. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, EFT tapping, bio stimulation and stretching are great at calming our anxiety quickly. When we reduce our anxiety, our frontal lobe is able to problem solve and make decisions more easily.
Although anxiety can feel uncomfortable it serves a purpose to keep us safe and motivate us for change. If you are struggling with anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety is normal and happens to everyone.
Written by: Mackenzie Kerber, MA, LPCC