The emergence and normalization of anxiety


Why does anxiety exist?

In general, anxiety is experienced as a negative feeling. It’s an annoying feeling and, sometimes, it seems to get in your way more than it helps you. We often forget that it is very normal to feel anxious. Anxiety helps us to recognize and avoid danger and perform tasks in a better way. It makes you vigilant. Therefore, instead of rejecting our anxiety, we should accept that we can sometimes feel anxious. Everyone feels anxious sometimes.

The purpose of anxiety

Anxiety’s function is to prevent a bad outcome. For example, it ensures that you pay extra attention when you see a swerving driver. It keeps you on your toes. This is also why new things or unpredictable situations can cause more anxiety. We do not know what to expect and, because of this, we sometimes assume the worst.

The symptoms associated with anxiety can feel quite unpleasant: sweating, a bad feeling in your stomach or an increased heart rate. Why do you experience these symptoms? This is due to the release of adrenaline. This physical response is very helpful. Especially in our prehistoric past, during which we had to react quickly if we saw a dangerous animal, this reaction literally was of vital importance. If there is a threat, your brain sends a signal to your body to get into action. Your focus becomes sharper, your digestive system becomes less active, your blood is pumped faster, and your muscles tighten. In short, you must be able to exert all your energy immediately when disaster strikes!

Anxiety provides security

We all react to anxiety differently. The easiest way is to flee when you are anxious about a certain situation. You will then feel safe for the time being. However, fleeing reinforces the idea that you only feel safe when the threat is gone. Therefore, it is useful to remember that the feelings of anxiety you experience ensure that you can achieve a good and safe result.

The most difficult way is to explore how dangerous the threat actually is. You will learn this step by step. You can compare it to a toddler who is at a swimming pool with a parent for the first time. The water will be something new and exciting at first. After all, the child does not yet know what will happen. Fortunately, the child will not dive straight into the water to explore how safe this potential threat actually is. It will paddle first. It may startle at first, but, after getting used to it, the anxiety will decrease. Step by step, it will dare to go further and further into the water.

You may also have examples of comparable situations from the past. For example, entering an unfamiliar classroom, your first swimming lesson or being visited by unfamiliar people. Can you still remember how you experienced the anxiety then?

So, it’s okay to feel anxious. We should be careful in new situations. It ensures that we do not blindly dive into every possible danger head first and provides protection from dangerous situations.


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