It's not all bad.
To be clear, I’ve never been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, I did minor in psychology, which means I’m allowed to diagnose myself.
Though I might not have an official diagnosis, I’ve spent enough stressful nights lying awake trying to quiet a brain permanently stuck on overdrive, biting my nails until it hurts, and tugging at my hair to know feeling anxious is never really fun.
There’s no denying that dealing with anxiety is never really easy. At its worst, it’s even debilitating. Overthinking and obsessive-compulsive behaviors turn even the smallest tasks into huge deals. Panic attacks are too often part of my daily routine.
It’s easy to succumb to anxiety, to feel hopeless and focus on the negatives (and trust me, there are a LOT of negatives).
But a lifetime is a long time to spend constantly dwelling on and preparing for the worst. It’s exhausting, and it’s no fun.
Which is why I’ve made it a point to embrace all of the positive aspects of having anxiety. Yes, I said it: POSITIVE!
The founder of YourTango, Andrea Miller, has a new book all about the profound benefits of embracing the difficult aspects of your life — Radical Acceptance: The Secret of Happy, Lasting Love (you should check it out) — and I agree with her philosophy.
She argues that, once you start extending empathy to the annoying quirks of others, "your perceptions shift and you are more readily able to quit sweating the small stuff; to let go of your tendency to control, blame and be defensive; and to extend more empathy and compassion to yourself."
That attitude has completely changed how I perceive my stress and anxiety. Sure, someone who’s never spent a minute overthinking a damn thing probably gets more restful sleep than I ever will and yeah, I’m at risk for having a panic attack at the most inopportune times — but once you learn to accept your anxiety, you realize it isn’t necessarily all bad.
Here are 6 ways anxiety has made me a more successful person.
1. It’s hard to catch me off guard.
Thanks to my anxiety, I’m always prepared. Over-prepared, even. As annoying as overthinking is, once you accept it you can start making use of it.
Because I’m constantly thinking of ways NOT to make a fool of myself, I see more than what’s right in front of me. Whether it’s a call for work or an unexpected detour, I’ve probably already spent many an hour thinking of ways things can go wrong — and preparing myself so that in the event something unexpected does happen, I’m ready to handle it.
2. I’m always on time.
Since I can remember, I’ve absolutely abhorred being late. For one, I’m afraid to miss anything, because you know… anxiety. On top of that, social anxieties kick in as well. For some, walking into a room full of people isn’t a big deal. For me? Well. I’d rather drop dead.
For that reason, I’m always, ALWAYS on time. Early, usually. And all hosts and employers appreciate a prompt person.
3. My advice is on point.
the odyssey online
I’m gonna have anxiety no matter what — so why not put it to good use? As awful as overthinking is (especially at 3 A.M. when you’re just trying to get a decent night of sleep), it’s almost guaranteed you have some decent advice for just about any life situation.
Not only do I spend time worrying about my own life, but also the lives of anyone who comes to me for advice. That means when my friends are in need, I will not rest (literally) until they’ve had the chance to talk it out and hear the advice my overactive brain is able to conjure.
4. I’m an awesome tour guide.
Whether I’ve been somewhere a million times or zero, thanks to my anxiety there’s a 100% chance I’ve researched everything thoroughly. On vacations, you won’t catch me without a carefully planned itinerary, multiple screenshots of public transportation routes and directions, and exact knowledge of where to find free wifi. You’re welcome.
5. I remember everything.
Are you ever about 4 seconds away from falling asleep at night and then suddenly remember that time you fainted in the middle of the gym during rush hour a few months ago and are immediately wide awake again? …No? Well, lucky you!
I, on the other hand, don’t forget ANYTHING (especially embarrassing moments like that). So while this may seem rather unfortunate, it actually comes in handy. I remember birthdays and phone numbers, and grocery and to-do lists that would be ten pages long if you wrote them out. Not bad, huh?
6. I’m highly intuitive.
We all have that gut feeling, or inner voice, that does its best to guide us in the right direction. Thanks to anxiety, my inner voice is quite the little nag. And while there are many moments where I have to forcefully ignore it, it’s often a saving grace. I’m great at reading people, and notice even the smallest details in any given situation.
As tough as it is to deal with anxiety, fighting it is a lot more exhausting than accepting it and focusing on the positive aspects. So while it might feel impossible to think of the good things anxiety lends you mid-panic attack, next time you're feeling down or overthinking something for the umpteenth time, try to remember that you wouldn't be the incredible you without a little bit of an anxious vibes sprinkled in.
Andrea Miller's "Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love" goes on sale on May 2nd and is available for pre-order now.