By Dr. Ellen Diana, Ph.D., Psychologist & Educator
Can anxiety have benefits? Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year are fast approaching and along with them often come high levels of anxiety. Worries emerge, to name a few, over shopping for just the right gifts, preparing for family get-togethers, fielding conflicts over competing needs of friends and family, and trying to make this year’s event “the best one ever.” All these worries and concerns take their toll and lead to stress and anxiety. Anxiety has traditionally been viewed as negative but can anxiety ever be beneficial?
An article by Alice Park in the December 5th issue of Time magazine states that anxiety can be positive as well as negative. The author cited the advantage of anxiety in creativity, sports performance, and acting. The boost of energy that comes with anxiety, in these instances, can spur individuals on to their highest performance. So can anxiety be a friend as well as an enemy? Ms. Park notes that the hormones that drive anxiety can stimulate the senses to function at their peaks.
The key to managing anxiety is to recognize that anxiety is, in and of itself, neither positive nor negative, but that it’s an individual’s response to it that determines the effect. So, if you feel a burst of energy associated with planning holiday events, then any anxiety which accompanies this energy feels helpful and positive. If, however, you look ahead to holiday events with stomach-churning trepidation, you’re not likely to derive any benefit.
Anxiety occurs when an individual senses danger and, in cases where danger is actually lurking, it keeps you safe. There isn’t likely to be any danger associated with holiday events unless you’re interpreting it as a protracted dinner conversation with a long-winded uncle, or maintaining a cheerful smile while consuming grandma’s inedible turkey stuffing.
To enjoy the holidays to the fullest:
• Keep events in perspective;
• Avoid catastrophizing;
• Ask for support when needed; and
• Recognize, most important of all that you are in charge of your reactions.
Use and manage the adrenaline boost of anxiety. Make a decision to enjoy the holidays and stay focused and single-minded about this goal.
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About the Author:
Ellen Diana is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals on psychology and education, and co-authored five self-help books in the Charge Up Your Life series. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website www.ellendiana.com