Wellness

Research: When Anxiety Boosts Motivation and Performance

Healthy anxiety is the misinterpretation of normal bodily sensations as dangerous. Healthy bodies produce all sorts of physical symptoms that might be uncomfortable, painful, unexpected, and otherwise unwanted — but not dangerous.

It is also essential to know that not all stressful or negative emotions are bad for us. Some may do more good than harm.

In one study, researchers asked, “Why do some people work best under pressure?” To find out, “They examined whether and how people use anxiety to motivate themselves.” The findings showed “clarity of feelings moderated the relationship between trait anxiety and the tendency to use this emotion as a source of motivation (i.e., anxiety motivation)Strack, et al. 2017. Furthermore, anxiety motivation mediated the relationship between trait anxiety and outcomes” — including academic achievement (Study 1) and persistence and job satisfaction (Study 2).”

The findings indicated that those who are aware of or have clarity about their feeling are more likely to succeed under anxiety and stress (eustress). And can use these to accomplish goals and experience work satisfaction. When you lack emotional awareness, it can prevent this benefit. Being aware and identifying what you are feeling is called ‘Emotional Intelligence.’

Emotional Intelligence — “The ability to perceive and understand emotions provides crucial information for managing emotions intelligently.” This clarity yields information helps with emotional regulation and adaptive responses. When one recognizes a feeling of anxiety is related to or stimulated by work performance, the individual can use it as an indicator. They know they can prevent or ease anxiety through work hard, seeking help and asking questions to face challenges proactively rather than waiting till everything crumbles. Therefore, it is safe to say that the “ability to identify and understand feelings helps people manage anxiety to enhance self-motivation” Strack, et al. 2017.


Anxiety and The role of working memory capacity in test performance

Eustress is a healthy level of stress that keeps us motivated and excited about life. It appears that some degree of anxiety may have similar “silver linings” (Owens et al. 2012). If we see stress or anxiety as an opportunity, it can usher us into greatness. The ability to recognize and use pressure to work for us instead of against is refreshing, and it can produce personal growth and improve relationships. We become less judgmental towards others with similar experiences. It is a silver lining because it instills hope instead of despair.

The research revealed, “students with good WMC (working memory capacity) and higher levels of anxiety showed better test performance than other individuals” (Owens et al. 2012). This is consistent with reports that moderate levels of anxiety can benefit test performance (Fernandez-Castillo & Gutierrez-Rojas, 2009)

Other Side Of  Health Anxiety

Sometimes we need a shakeup to restore productivity in our endeavors. Getting too comfortable with our daily routine can hider growth. When anxiety hits, and we choose to respond, appropriately, there is a shift that can generate progress, innovative ideas, or solutions to problems. This result can only happen when you see anxiety or stress as a challenge rather than a threat.
 
 Relationships with our spouses, children, friends, parents, or other family members can improve when anxiety kicks in. ‘If we take others for granted, we may lose them.’ This challenge can renew our sense of love, loyalty, and care towards each other. Help us realize what life may become if we lose those relationships, especially if they add meaning to our lives. Also, students or writers can use it to boost their motivations to perform better.

Thank you for reading. Please, feel free to comment. I wish you all restful and joyous weekend.

Reference

Strack, J., Lopes, P., Esteves, F., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2017). Must We Suffer to Succeed? Journal of Individual Differences, 38(2), 113–124. doi:10.1027/1614–0001/a000228

Owens, M., Stevenson, J., Hadwin, J. A., & Norgate, R. (2012). When does anxiety help or hinder cognitive test performance? The role of working memory capacity. British Journal of Psychology, 105(1), 92–101. doi:10.1111/bjop.12009

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