When I tell people that much of my work is based on anxiety concepts, any given person is like “Great! Anxiety’s so bad!’ But anxiety is actually like a misunderstood Game of Thrones character; one that isn’t inherently ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, but rather multi-dimensional, and one that’s evolved over time for the sake of adaptability and survival.
Just like people, mental disorders are rarely one-dimensional, and it’s time that we acknowledge the more positive dimensions of anxiety.
The negative dimensions are obvious – poor health, isolation, interference with daily life, a lower quality of life, etc. But the positive dimensions are not-so-obvious. Let me point them out: higher motivation levels, a tendency to take more preventative action, a sensitivity to surroundings and people that leads to leadership capabilities, a propensity for art and creative thinking, and the ability to put things into perspective better than their non-anxious counterparts.
If you only suffer from anxiety and aren’t experiencing any of the other side of the coin – recognize that the benefits are there, and allow them to exist. Remember - anxiety is energy.
To reap the benefits of anxiety, we have to allow it to energize us instead of cripple us. Instead of fighting anxiety when it crops up, try conditioning yourself to recognize if it’s alerting you to any potential real danger. If you can take preventative action, go for it – anxiety is like a built-in alarm system. If you can’t take preventative action, engage in neurological rewiring, and intervene in a way that redirects your energy into something more productive. (Like creative projects!)
“There are people who are ambitious, competitive, big-thinking and novelty-seeking, but who also have a makeup that leads them to become easily overstimulated and anxious. They often feel like they’ve got one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake” says Alicia Boyes, Ph.D., author of 'The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points'.
I looove this analogy. That is exactly how I feel on almost a daily basis. Instead of being scared of going too fast but still wanting to get to your destination - just check out the speed limit, hover around there, and let up off that brake.
There’s this awesome book written by psychologist Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., called 'The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self - Not Just Your "Good" Self - Drives Success and Fulfillment', and he makes 5 crucial key points that barely anyone else is talking about:
5 Key Points as to Why Anxiety Drives Success
1. “In situations when danger is a possibility… anxiety prevails over positivity”
2. “When we’re anxious, we serve the same function as canaries in a mine shaft; we’re sentinels, helping other people by reacting quickly and vocally to early potential signs of danger.”
3. “In not avoiding negative emotions, we gain emotional agility, and the ability to use the full palette of emotional experiences.”
4. “Negative emotions give us more courage, regulate our behavior, keep us alert to our surroundings, and recharge our creative energies.”
5. You have the ability to abandon the notion of labeling emotions as exclusively positive or negative, and can instead target what is healthy or unhealthy in a situation.
Understanding these concepts helps us to realize not only why anxiety is so common (it’s a natural human condition), but they can also help us to shed the guilt that we carry about having a mental disorder.
Remember when you heard about Einstein being labeled as having a mental disorder, (autism), and being held back in school because of his learning disabilities? Now his name is literally synonymous for someone who’s a genius? It’s because he saw things so differently that he was able to reconstruct and rehabilitate our ideas about fundamental concepts like physics and time. Use your mental disorder to your advantage through creative thinking, like ol’ Einstein did!
A lot of successful geniuses really figured out how to harness and channel their mental disorders like anxiety into creativity. But how? How exactly did they channel their anxiety into innovative, creative thinking? There must be a step-by-step process! No, not for them - they had to learn the hard way through trial and error, but it doesn't have to be as difficult for you.
There’s an Evergray eCourse that's now floating around in the universe called ‘Channeling Your Anxiety into Creativity’. (Yay!) It’s sizable and interactive, but I made a free, mini email course version of it covering the same concepts so that everyone can get in on the action, or just taste it before they go all in. (That means you!)
These concepts include explaining the theory behind channeling anxiety, giving you the knowledge base necessary to start channeling, and explaining exactly how you'll channel anxiety - all while doling out some refreshing tidbits along the way.
To grab the CHANNELING ANXIETY FOR CREATIVES: The 3-Part Mini Email Course, type in those letters below, and it’ll slide into that inbox right here, right now!
Though the link between anxiety and creativity is periodically mentioned and echoed throughout academia, how they are linked is through having an active imagination. (I've been working really hard in my little home office to answer all of my burning anxiety questions, and I'm 96% sure of this.)
An active imagination not only leads to conjuring up creative vision and innovation, but it has a darker side: emotions like anxiety and depression, amongst other by-products. (I’ve worked out that all imagination by-products fall into 8 categories).
There's actually a super cool flowchart quiz that helps you recognize where your imagination energy is going so that you can channel it back into more desirable by-products like creative projects before it ever reaches the point of debilitating anxiety.
Take the Imagination Flowchart Quiz and find out where all of that imagination energy is going - get it emailed to that inbox!