If you're concerned about your anxiety, there are no shortage of solutions on offer, from drugs and behavior modification, to getting more exercise or even just learning simple deep breathing techniques. But here's an approach that's rarely mentioned: just stop worrying about it.
If your anxiety is mild or moderate, it might not be a bad thing, argue a pair of psychologists in a recent editorial in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass, The Washington Post's Agata Blaszczak-Bowe reports.
The upside of being a worrywart
For instance, worrying about your health can drive people to take sensible precautions like wearing sunscreen or getting regular cancer screenings. Also, bracing for bad news beforehand can lessen the impact of difficult development (or, if the worry was unfounded, make the good news all the more joyful), and a touch of anxiety can push people to be more grateful for the good things in their lives.
"Despite its negative reputation, not all worry is destructive or even futile," lead author of the editorial and UC Riverside psychology professor Kate Sweeny commented. In short, being a worrywart isn't always a bad thing. (Interestingly, other science shows something similar about stress -- too little can be as problematic as too much. Ideally, you're looking to hit a stress sweet spot.)
How much worry is too much?
Of course, just because some people are over-concerned about their anxiety and would actually do better if they simply accepted their worrying doesn't mean that there's no such thing as excessive anxiety. So how much is too much?
Blaszczak-Bowe doesn't delve into this question, but lots of other mental health professionals have weighed in elsewhere on how to tell whether you've cross the line into pathological levels of anxiety. Danger signs include trouble concentrating on important matters in your work and life, substance abuse issues, and physical symptoms like a racing heart or excessive sweating.
Chances are, however, if you're entering genuine anxiety disorder territory, you're aware of it. This new editorial seems to be directed more to the simply highly strung among us, and it's offering a welcome message: if you're a natural worrier, you don't have to add your inclination to anxiety to your list of things to stress about. As long as worry isn't crippling your life or driving you to despair, your capacity to imagine the worst is probably providing you with very real benefits.