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Just be Anxious Enough

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All of us are familiar enough with that rush of adrenaline that starts a series of reactions in our bodies when pressure comes knocking at the door. Whether provoked by a large audience, a tight deadline, or simply a hectic day, our conscience knows when internal and external stimuli arouse our senses and affect our bodily functioning.

While at all levels, anxiety stimulates the mind and affects health, it is clear that the physical effects of anxiety are naturally more pronounced on some than on others.

Knowing that there is a good side and a bad side to stress is really nothing new. In grade school, many of us learn about “eustress” or the kind of anxiety that can enhance one’s cognition and make an individual more alert to surroundings and observant of risks.

We distinguish this from “distress,” or the bad side of anxiety that can cause release of hormones that constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure, and speed up breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolism. Consequently, while some people react to anxiety with physical symptoms such as sweating, pain, and nervousness, others feel only subtle effects.

An article published earlier this year in Time Magazine entitled “Why Anxiety is Good for You” drew attention to some of the new science behind anxiety. It analyzed the neurochemical and hormonal changes associated with stress and how they relate to chronic stress disorders that plague many Americans. For example, when the body experiences too much arousal, it can lead to panic disorders, weaker immune functions, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.

While in the short-run most individuals can come up with tactics for coping with various levels of anxiety, it is especially important for people to think about the long-run and make sure that their body is handling a manageable amount of stimulating anxiety, and not debilitating itself with too much distress.

Many psychologists have long relied on a bell-shaped model of a stress curve that indicates that each person has their own peak, which represents the ideal amount of stress they can controllably handle. Beyond that point, the body becomes overloaded and exhausted.

Knowing how your own body handles pressure and being honest about the level at which you react negatively to anxiety can help immensely. It can help you to pick out which type of projects to take on, and which tasks to delegate to others who are naturally better at handling the stresses of particular situations.

Striving to maintain healthy levels of anxiety is the best way to guarantee long-term physical and mental strength and alertness. Hence, success will not always result from trying to outdo others. Our bodies thank us for staying calm and making decisions that are smart and balanced. So keep in mind, all you really need to do is just be anxious enough.



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