Healthy Anxiety

Anxiety is one of those emotions whose connotation is almost exclusively negative. Anxiety is something we try to avoid, and to have anxiety may give off an impression of weakness or mental instability. On two separate occasions today I was presented with the idea of healthy anxiety; once in the meditation app I’ve been using and once in one of my psychiatry lectures. In lecture, healthy anxiety was defined as a normal human emotion which provides important information to make decisions and energy that empowers us to act.

Anxiety contributes to my motivation to get work done. It contributes to me satisfying basic necessities like hunger and thirst. Without any anxiety there would be no drive to do anything. Of course in some cases emotions can be “pathological” if you are experiencing too much or too little to the point where it impairs your “normal” functions (which is why we are learning about it), at which point of course it is worth seeking help.

From a meditation perspective, the goal I think is to be able recognize “negative” emotions like anxiety without judgment, or even with a sense of appreciation. Having some anxiety is not necessarily something to be stressed about, but something to be acknowledged.

This block in neuroscience has been a good reminder that the full range of human emotion serves a purpose, even those which are typically seen as negative (otherwise we probably wouldn’t experience it). This has been an important realization for me, especially recently as I’ve been feeling a little more anxious than normal for different reasons, and being prompted to take note of that anxiety and just let it be in my meditation sessions has been helpful.

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