9 Benefits of Anxiety 2024: How to Use Anxiety To Your Advantage [as a Strength]

Jun 4, 20245 min
Benefits of Anxiety - a negative can be turned to be positiv

Wait, what?

How can anxiety - something so crippling for some of us - have benefits?

How can one possibly use anxiety to one’s benefit?

This makes no sense… until we understand the breadth of what the word ‘anxiety’ entails. 

Anxiety, although a biological and psychological event, occurs as a response to a real or perceived threat.

This means that we feel anxious when we feel unsafe, and the purpose of anxiety is to help us come back to a sense of safety. When we begin to understand this, we begin to see the benefits of anxiety. 

In her book, Anxiety: How To Overcome It and Live Without Fear, clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta classifies anxiety into six different types: 

  1. Adaptive anxiety 
  2. Existential anxiety 
  3. Specific anxiety
  4. Predispositional or trait-based anxiety 
  5. Anxiety that needs professional attention but does not qualify for a clinical diagnosis 
  6. Anxiety disorders 

Based on this classification, it is the first type of anxiety - adaptive anxiety - which is most useful for us. This is the type of anxiety that helps us problem-solve, take on new challenges, find innovative ways of dealing with challenges, grow and adapt when we fear a threat. 

All of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives, and many of us live with ongoing low-key anxiety. While anxiety signals us to a threat - real or perceived - if we get caught in its throes and begin to fear anxiety itself, we lose an opportunity to use it to our advantage. By becoming inquisitive and engaging with it, we can reap the many benefits of anxiety. 

Disclaimer: Do note that these benefits do not apply to anxiety disorders. When anxiety is so extreme that it clouds our thinking, leads to avoidance behaviours, or causes uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, it’s important to work through it with the help of a mental health professional. We, at Mave Health, have empanelled the country’s top mental health professionals as a part of our Therapy Club. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from working with a therapist, do reach out. 

Here are 9 benefits of anxiety: 

1.It can alert us to risk or danger: 

Imagine you’re on a road trip with a close friend. Your friend has an adventurous streak and decides to take a different route than the one recommended by Google Maps. At first, it all seems fine and fun. But, at some point, you end up on a stretch that doesn’t have any street lights. You go ahead. As you move further, though, the road becomes bumpy. It’s so dark that you can’t clearly see what’s ahead. While your friend seems to be dealing with this just fine, you start getting anxious. This anxiety is probably alerting you to the risk of taking this bumpy road with no lights and poor visibility. 

This is an important role anxiety plays for us. If we don’t have an inbuilt system that alerts us to possible risks, we would not be able to protect ourselves in potentially dangerous situations. 

2.It can motivate us and drive energy to take action:

Anxiety can be a motivating force in many situations like an important exam or interview, a first date, or even a vacation. We can even be a bit intentional about reframing the anxiety we feel before an important event, as motivational. Treating anxiety as motivation can drive our energy to take action, work hard and perform better. Research has shown that when we treat anxiety as motivation, we are protected from the potential exhaustion we may feel as a result of the event or even the anxiety itself.

3.It may make us more empathetic and compassionate! 

Emotional intelligence is a key component of building successful relationships. Emotional intelligence means we are self-aware, in tune with other people’s emotional states, and able to navigate interpersonal situations successfully.   

If we learn to lean into our anxiety with curiosity, gaining important insights about our internal processes, it can make us more empathetic and compassionate towards others, too. These are ingredients of emotional intelligence. On the other hand, those who already have high emotional intelligence - that is, those who are both, self-aware and in tune with others - may be more prone to feeling anxious as close relationships often stir uncomfortable emotions. So, contrary to popular belief, anxiety and high emotional intelligence often go hand in hand. 

4.It may bring about positive changes or effects

Feeling anxious motivates us to get out of this state of anxiety. Because anxiety can be uncomfortable and unnerving, we want to find ways to stop feeling this way. This, in turn, can set us up on a path to creating positive changes in the way we might be navigating the situation that’s making us anxious. 

5.It may help in figuring out our core values

Often, at workplaces, we see employees feel anxious and stressed because there’s a mismatch in personal values and the demands of work. The anxiety caused by a demanding boss may help you understand that having some space and autonomy is important to you. Anxiety caused by long hours may help you understand that you value having time with your loved ones. Anxiety caused by a sedentary lifestyle may help you understand that you value movement, and so on. 

6.It may help you discover your full potential

The best real-life example of this comes from the life of a student. Students often experience immense anxiety and pressure to perform well academically. Their life is built around examinations and evaluations. A student’s task is to channel this anxiety to help them perform well and in the process, discover their full potential. 

7.It may help develop good leadership skills

For a leader, the right amount of anxiety may contribute to critical thinking and help in considering multiple scenarios. It may also help a leader be more attuned to the work, and help avoid mistakes. Since anxiety also contributes to emotional intelligence, this can help a leader become more attuned and empathetic toward their team members. 

8.It may help you find balance in life 

Because anxiety is kind of like our internal alarm system, when we lean into it and try to decipher what it’s telling us, it may help us cultivate a more balanced life. If you live in an urban city, for example, you’ll notice that the chaos and hustle of city life sometimes makes you anxious. Acknowledging this and listening to its cues can help you create more balance and peace. 

9.It may help develop positive character traits like intelligence, compassion, patience and understanding 

Remember that the purpose of anxiety is to bring you back to a state of homeostasis, or a feeling of safety. This process requires building some key skills of self-awareness, critical thinking, patience, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and flexibility. 

In conclusion…

Anxiety is a broad term which encompasses everything between useful anxiety and anxiety disorders. Some amount of anxiety is normal and helpful for us to navigate the ups and downs of life. It’s important to keep this distinction in mind when we talk about the benefits of anxiety. If anxiety feels too much for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support and care. 

References: 

Are There Potential Benefits to Having Anxiety? (n.d.). Verywell Mind. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from

Cronkleton, E. (2023, September 8). How cities negatively affect mental health: Tips and coping strategies. Www.medicalnewstoday.com.

Gupta, S. (2020). Anxiety. HarperCollins. How we misunderstand anxiety and miss out on its benefits. (2022, September 8). University of California.

Strack, J., Lopes, P. N., & Esteves, F. (2014). Will you thrive under pressure or burn out? Linking anxiety motivation and emotional exhaustion. Cognition and Emotion, 29(4), 578–591.

‌The Interplay Between High EQ and Anxiety. (n.d.). Psychology Today.

What are Anxiety Disorders? (n.d.). Www.psychiatry.org.

What is Anxiety Attack and It’s Triggers. (n.d.).

Author's Profile picture
Prachi Gangwani
Therapist | Yoga Teacher | Author of Dear Men: Masculinity and Modern Love in #MeToo India