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Productive anxiety. What is it and how can it be worked to your advantage?

  • Hazel Butterfield
  • 30 November 2016

Anxiety is such a peril in today's society, but we need to learn to harness negativity and turn it into a positive tool. Don't let it control you, use it, abuse it and turn in to what will work for you.

Productive anxiety. What is it and how can it be worked to your advantage?


What is 'Productive Anxiety'? In its simplest terms it's when, faced with problems, worrying times, hardship; you get your shit in gear. It's panic, fight or flight. It's when we separate the boys from the men, the girls from the women (kind of). See a challenge and come up fighting.

You know how you become lazy, the more comfortable you feel? Fear gets you moving. Necessity is one hell of a kick up the arse. How many times have you heard that you work better under pressure? Tight timeframes? A realisation that you really need to harness your resources to quite frankly, get shit done. This is productive anxiety.

Not all of us work like this. To some, you may not even realise you are capable of it and yet looking back, you are. When it matters.

The busier I am, the more productive I am. Without a doubt. Set me a challenge and I thrive on proving people wrong, I can do it. The more I have to do, the more I get to utilise what I call is my administrative OCD brain. I like logic, efficiency and to-do lists. I don't make like an ostrich and shove my head in the sand. I fight. I plan. I take control.

I like to make positives out of negatives and tempting fate to 'just try and screw me over..' If you think something bad may happen, if you're panicking about something that could potentially turn your world upside down. Harness it and use it to your advantage.

Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being positive about what could go right.


How can you use Productive Anxiety?

You need to identify the 'why' behind what you do. Maybe it's a simple as needing to pay the bills, or to take your mind of something else that is negative. But as soon as you realise that, you will have a new appreciation for what you do and why you need to succeed.

You cannot just assume to make the decision that you will turn that frown upside down, it takes time. In the same way that you don't just decide to lose a dress size, you need to get to the gym and/or ditch all your fatty treats on your thin friend. Perseverance, bravery and drive.

Yes it is changing your mindset, it's about finding ways to not fear failure or issues that challenge you and your sanity. "If this happens, then at least it gives me the opportunity to do that." Plan for such eventuality and then before you know it, you may be so prepared you're willing it to happen.

- If you're scared to be alone, think of what you could do if you had the time. Do an extra shift at work to save for that trip, start the gym, do that course you've always fancied...

- You're about to be made redundant... Spend less time worrying and more time planning; research updating your CV, plan your time so that none of the redundancy is wasted on 'what next?'

- Time poor and swamped? Learn how to multitask! Run while sorting your thoughts, planning your next move. It really gets the brain working proactively. Kids complaining about the latest bunch of collector cards they want, constantly? Make them earn the money by helping with the housework (keeps them quiet) or helping with the younger ones homework (double-whammy).


If you have a fear of the unknown, get to know the unknown.


Good luck! X


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