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How To Make The Most Of Your Anxiety & Use It To Your Advantage (Yes, Really!)

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6 Productive Ways For How To Deal With Anxiety & Use Its Symptoms To Your Advantage

Anxiety doesn't have to be your enemy.

What is anxiety and how do you use symptoms of anxiety as a force for self-improvement?

At its core, anxiety is a powerful tool of regulating our attention and motivation to look after the things we care about most in life. Anxiety means you care and we can’t care about things and not see signs of anxiety from time to time.

Yes, having constant anxious thoughts can be uncomfortable and too much of it can be tough to manage. Having an anxiety attack or suffering from chronic anxiety can be awful.  And, when you're suffering from these feelings, you'll probably be focused on how to calm anxiety rather than use it for good.

However, a moderate amount of anxiety helps us tend to the things we care about most, improve our personal growth, and be at our best.

RELATED: What It Feels Like To Have Anxiety And Depression At The Same Time

Here are 6 productive ways on how to deal with anxiety and use your anxiety symptoms and thoughts to your advantage.

1. Embrace, rather than resist it 

Resisting anxiety adds anxiety to your anxiety, exponentially ratcheting it up to something that can quickly become unwieldy, and overwhelming.

Instead, try to embrace that your anxiety is trying to alert you to something you care about instead of suffering through it. 

2. Get your panic under control by changing your mindset

Instead of fighting panic, learn to dive into it. Like a large wave approaching, bracing yourself isn't as effective as diving through it.

Making a decision not to fight your anxiety and to let its waves wash over you can help you weather the storm of panic. This is one of the most difficult but effective coping skills for anxiety. 

3. Rely on its power to direct attention 

Anxiety may have more to do with harnessing our attention rather than frightening us. Few resources are as limited as our finite attention and we simply can’t afford to direct this precious resource indiscriminately.

We live more of our life on autopilot than many of us realize and anxiety operates as a backup system to wake us up to pay attention when needed.

If you're dealing with anxiety, try focusing that anxious energy on something else like a conversation or a beautiful scene. 

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Love A Woman With Severe Anxiety

4. Name your anxiety 

Research consistently shows that naming your emotions helps you manage and control your anxiety, even when you think it won’t.

Simply translating your emotional experience into language powerfully changes your experience of it. Enact curiosity and name your feelings to get control of them.

For people with anxiety disorders, naming those feelings is the best method for managing anxiety. 

5. Re-frame your fear

In naming your experience, you are also the architect of it. Don’t be afraid to stretch your experience toward the positive. Reframing fear into excitement has been shown to help people harness their arousal for positive outcomes when it comes to taking tests and public speaking.

How might you be eager, excited, or motivated, rather than scared and anxious? You have more control than you think when it comes to translating your anxiety. 

Want to know how to relieve anxiety? Just re-frame it. 

6. Seize the inherent motivation of anxiety 

Anxiety produces a desire to do something. Like hearing a baby’s cry, we are motivated when anxiety strikes to find a solution to make it stop — it was designed that way.

If we don’t waste its energy fighting with ourselves, we can use it to propel action towards our goals. Sometimes, anxiety can give us that final push to meet a goal.

Anxiety can keep us focused on the things that matter most in life. It reminds us when situations need our attention, and motivates us to solutions. It doesn't have to be a curse, and actually can be used to make our life better.

One of our most basic emotions, it is also one of our most advanced. Anxiety challenges us to be at our best and helps us protect the things that matter most to us.

RELATED: 3 Reasons Your Anxiety Gets Triggered Randomly —​ Even When Things Are Fine

Dr. Alicia Clark is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out her anxiety blog, download her free ebook, or sign up for her newsletter.

This article was originally published at Dr Clark's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.