When Anxiety is a Good Thing

San Fran 2009 043

I have written a lot about the danger of experiencing too much anxiety, or dealing with it too much of the time.  But is it really all bad?  In the ideal world would we be feeling cool-as-a-cucumber every day?


Anxiety, nervousness and worry have lots of good uses.  They are the reasons we:

  • Wear seatbelts
  • Take vitamins
  • Study for spelling tests
  • Buy vacation insurance
  • Debate fracking on Facebook (wait, is that a good thing?)

Here’s another one:

  • Improve our self esteem and confidence

Here’s how it works:  We think about doing something new/hard and get nervous about it.  Let’s use running a marathon as an example.  When you first think of running a marathon you might say to yourself:

That’s crazy! I’m not athletic at all! I could never do that!

Then, for some reason (peer pressure, a mid-life crisis, whatever) you decide to sign up for your very first marathon.  During the training period you work hard and get stronger, but your nerves and anxiety start acting up.  You might say to yourself:

I am crazy for agreeing to this! What was I thinking? I am going to die out there!

But you keep training and the morning of the marathon arrives.  You’re prepared, fit and ready, but you still might say to yourself:

I feel like I am going to throw up, I’m so nervous! I have never felt this anxious before! I hate this! I’m never doing this again!

Then you start running, and you keep going and eventually you finish the race.  A few days later, after the sore muscles have passed and you have caught up on your sleep, you might say to yourself:

That was amazing! I can’t believe I ran that far and lived! I am so much stronger than I thought! I can’t wait to do that again!

And there you have it: Anxiety—->Preparation—->Living through it—->Increased confidence

Pretty cool, huh? So the next time someone asks you to do something that makes you scared, stretches your abilities or requires you to do something you think you can’t; think twice before turning them down.  The anxiety you feel might just turn into an awesome experience.


The Debate, DU, and School Pride

I am going to tell you something I don’t normally divulge – who I was rooting for in last night’s presidential debate.  The University of Denver! I am bursting with pride this morning at the coverage given to, and the job done by my graduate school alma mater.  DU has been prepping for this event for a long time and they did a super job!

When I attended DU, it seemed like few people had heard of it – apart from their awesome Men’s Ice Hockey Team.  My, how things have changed.  Condoleeza Rice is a grad which brought DU’s International Studies program recognition; and Colorado is now center-stage as a “swing state” in this election.  It feels pretty good to be getting noticed for something other than our mountains and snow for once (even though they are pretty great, too).  And while the political rhetoric can be stressful and anxiety-provoking, I feel glad that at least for last night’s election I could focus on something purely positive – pride in my state and my school.  Go Pioneers!

Those were the days…