Anxiety sucks. But when you get through the worst of it, you may find that there can be some unexpected positive outcomes. Now, for everyone who’s already prepared to chop my head off for saying this, simmer down. I’m not saying anxiety is easy, or something that anyone ever wants to have. I understand that the “upsides” I discuss below will take some time to get to. All I’m saying is that positive things can come out of what you’re dealing with, and all is not lost. So, that being said, here are 12 things that may help remind you that some goodness can come out of your struggles.
1) You develop a new way of looking at the world.
Anxiety opens your eyes and causes you to see things in a way you’ve never seen them before. It can change the way that you judge certain people, the way you spend your time, and/or the way you talk to the people around you. A lot of the time, anxiety pops the bubble that you’ve been living in up until now. It’s scary, but it forces you to understand things you never would have otherwise.
2) You form a deeper sense of empathy for other people.
Anxiety makes you feel like you’re not yourself. It overwhelms you, worries you, hangs over you, and sometimes forces you to uproot your life. You understand, in a way that you hadn’t before, what it’s like to feel scared or alone or out of sorts or helpless. In the past, when someone screwed up or acted out, made a mistake or had a meltdown, you may have been tempted to judge them. But anxiety has caused you to think about and observe and see people in a way that you previously had not been able to do. Even if you don’t understand or know what someone is going through, you know what it’s like when someone feels like they’re upside down.
3) Being vulnerable isn’t as difficult for you anymore.
It’s still difficult, because no one likes to be vulnerable. But oftentimes, anxiety can force you to start reaching out more to people out of a sheer need for help and support. Anxiety sometimes makes you feel crazy and restless and in dire need of simple human connections. You’ve learned to stop worrying about your pride and image so much, because receiving love and encouragement from someone is so much better and easier than showing a brave face.
4) Anxiety ends up putting things in perspective for you.
Once you’ve experienced any kind of anxiety, the path to happiness seems much less complicated. When it feels like you’re drowning inside your own head, unable to tell your thoughts to shut up, you’re not thinking about how you wish you had a higher position at work, or more followers on your social networks, or a long list of celebrity friends. In fact, those are often the things that can spark deep waves of anxiety in the first place. Once you really and truly feel anxiety, career rankings and social status become pretty silly, and all you care about are things like family, friends, and doing things that really matter. It’s not until you’re in the dark that you can truly understand what brings the most light into your life.
5) You often become less attached to things.
Yes, a shopping day or a brand new phone can be comforting, but you’ve realized that the only thing that truly makes you feel more at peace is being around people you care about. When you’re in the middle of a deep bout of anxiety or panic, you’re not wishing for a multimillion dollar mansion, designer clothes, a personal chauffeur, and more money than you know what to do with. All you’re thinking is that you want to have a sense of peace, rid your life of any unnecessary clutter (both physical clutter and non-physical clutter), and surround yourself with the people you love the most. In your darkest moments, the path to being happy and content is not overwhelmed with bright and shiny things. All you want to focus on is holding the hands of the people that bring you the most peace and make you feel the most alive.
6) It can help you to form bonds with people you wouldn’t normally be close with.
Anxiety is not a rare thing in today’s world, and tons of people go through it. There’s something to be said about going through something and having another person know exactly how you feel and exactly what it’s like, without having to explain anything to them. But dealing with anxiety doesn’t just bring you closer to new people you meet through therapy or support groups or trying a new hobby that you hope will help brighten up your day – it also can bring you closer to people you already knew who you previously thought of simply as mere acquaintances. Anxiety can sometimes lead you to open up and form deep connections with people you wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise.
7) Your mind becomes a lot more focused.
At this point, you’ve been through enough. You don’t care as much about how your image comes across to people, what is and is not expected of you in society, what you should do to impress other people, etc. You’ve been at the bottom of the pit, an angle that makes most other things seem pretty unimportant. By now, you’ve figured out what and who you want to spend your time on, and what is just a waste of your time.
8) You have a greater appreciation for the happy and joyful moments in your life.
Anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lead a miserable life. Once you’ve learned how to treat it and have figured out the best way to handle it when it comes around, you can still maintain a very normal and often happy life. Except this time, you’ve had enough low and dark moments to appreciate, even more than you already did, what it feels like to have true joy, content, excitement, and love in your life.
9) Sometimes, you end up trying things you wouldn’t have tried previously.
When it comes to dealing with anxiety, people’s suggestions for curbing it are pretty surprising: trying improv, training for a marathon, taking up a new hobby. Basically, people tell you to do things that you’d think would just bring even more anxiety. However, many people have found that putting themselves in nerve-wracking situations actually helps them deal with anxiety, because it teaches them how to handle their nerves and deal with feeling uncomfortable and terrified. The release that comes from doing these types of things is so great that people often fall in love with the very thing they were once afraid of.
10) A lot of other things become a lot less scary.
Similar to the point above, anxiety helps you with putting things in perspective. When the thing you’re most terrified of is whatever is going on inside your own mind, every thing else slowly becomes less scary, bit by bit by bit. Maybe you’re still scared of public speaking or scuba diving or just going on a date, but you’re able to put your fear in place because you’ve had much more difficult moments where you were a lot more terrified. Learning how to take control of your anxiety instead of letting it take control of you really helps you to understand that you can handle just about anything that comes your way.
11) Your fear of not having control sometimes helps you to gain a stronger sense of control in other areas of your life.
Because our twenties are so unpredictable, we often let ourselves go in a lot of areas: we drink too much, or we have really poor diets. We work too much or too little. We watch hours of tv instead of getting up and going outside. We let things that we could easily control just slip right through our fingers. Anxiety can often exacerbate this problem, but not if you’re willing to work on your anxiety. Once you’ve decided to start fighting against your anxiety, the fear of not having control that often accompanies anxiety will lead to you doing everything you can to feel more in control. You maintain a much healthier diet, you drink less, you work hard but you learn how to say enough is enough. You exercise, you force yourself to get off the couch and do whatever it is that you need to do to feel stimulated, whether that’s taking a walk or socializing or reading a book. If you’re trying to fight against anxiety, you’ll often find you start subconsciously improving all sorts of areas in your life.
12) You can sense when other people are having a hard time, and you know how to help them.
You’ve been through it – through the worst parts of anxiety. You know the warning signs and the symptoms and the look people get on their face when they’re mentally present but their mind is a million miles away. It’s become a lot easier for you to sense when someone around you is struggling, even if it’s not specially anxiety that they’re suffering from. You’ve been through enough to know how to recognize it, and reach out and help them. You may not think much of it, but helping someone to feel just a little less scared than you did helps more than you’ll ever know.