We become anxious when we perceive a threat in our surroundings such as a late-night knock on the door, a menacing stray dog or even raised voices in our vicinity. That is a natural reaction and it will subside once we discover that it was a neighbour knocking on our door, the dog didn’t do anything and the raised voices were not directed at us. That is one kind of anxiety to external stimuli.
There is another kind of anxiety that we are prone to that develops as a result of just our thinking. This is when we are expecting a possible negative outcome at an event. Our mind is projecting in the future and imagining a scenario with a failure of some kind and the result is anxiety. Can such anxiety be useful? Certainly.
Children who are preparing for a test or the annual exams can be anxious about their performance. Corporate presentations can cause anxiety in an employee. People preparing for a long journey could be anxious wondering if they have packed everything needed. In all these cases, the anxiety will make them take better and more effort towards their goal. Children might make better preparation, the executive might repeatedly check to eliminate errors in his presentation and the traveller could go over his checklist once more. Healthy anxiety leads to better results.
Getting anxious about things one can do nothing about does not help. What if the test is cancelled? What if very few people turn up for the presentation? What if the flight is cancelled? These kinds of thoughts lead us nowhere because we cannot control those events from happening. We can cast all kinds of doomsday scenarios over which we have no control and cannot prepare for and become anxious. This is unhealthy anxiety that can even spoil our physical health and affect our actual performance.
We can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anxieties easily.
*Healthy anxiety helps us to reach our predetermined goals. Healthy anxiety focus on the things in our control which can change the outcome. The action taken can calm our anxiety.
*Unhealthy anxiety on the other hand stops us from performing better. It focuses on things not in our control - things about which we can do nothing.
*Healthy anxiety makes us do a better job unhealthy anxiety just chips away at our confidence sowing false doubts.
The distinction helps us to keep unhealthy anxiety at a distance and let healthy anxiety into our lives.