Posted on: Nov 28, 2022
Rarely a day goes by when I don't read or hear someone talk about having anxiety, being anxious, feeling stressed, or walking around in fear. This was true before the Pandemic and has grown fueled by COVID death dashboards and germ transmission fixation. MedAlertHelp summarized multiple surveys on stress and labeled it a 2022 mental health epidemic. Many of the surveys were measuring stress, but often stress and anxiety are used interchangeably. They are both human reactions to threatening situations. Technically, the difference between stress and anxiety is that stress goes away once you remove the stressor, and anxiety continues.
The blowfish on the cover would have prompted me to buy this book, but the title clinched the sale. In Future Tense: Why Anxiety is Good for You (Even Though it Feels Bad) by Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, anxiety isn’t something to avoid, medicate, or otherwise ignore but is instead highly useful. And regardless of whether you call that tense and uncomfortable feeling stress or anxiety, what is refreshing is Dennis-Tiwary argument that anxiety gives you invaluable information and is an adaptive response to threats. By labeling anxiety as bad, we become blind to the benefits of this psychological reaction. Although Dennis-Tiwary doesn’t make this comparison, an analogy that illustrates the point is the human sense of touch. We have nerve receptors to keep us from burning or freezing parts of our body. The horrible disease of leprosy takes away that sense of touch by killing nerve endings. Those afflicted don't know when they are hurting themselves. Just as we need that physical senses to learn about the world and keep our bodies safe, we need psychological senses to do the same thing and keep our emotional selves safe. Anxiety is that equivalent, but it can’t help us if we only think about getting rid of anxiety or treating it exclusively as an emotional illness.
Future Tense is a must-read book if you or people around you struggle with anxiety as a negative force or if you just want a new perspective to share the next time someone says they are stressed. This book may help you reframe something you see as negative into an asset. Reframing is a powerful tool in your skill set that is useful in many situations. How you think about something, such as anxiety, can propel you to find solutions or cripple you into immobility. If you want to know more about the book before you decide to read it, Dacher Keltner and Kira M. Mewman wrote an excellent article titled How We Misunderstand Anxiety and Miss Out on Its Benefits in Greater Good Magazines Newsletter.