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The uses of anxiety

It works like our immune system, which uses a natural algorithm to defend our bodies from harmful bacteria or viruses
It’s normal to feel that there must be something wrong. But this is not necessarily true, because most people’s Paranoia Lines are set at a high level

The Telegraph   |     |   Published 13.05.20, 04:33 PM

Of course you are worried. You are anxious. It is the most natural reaction to a global pandemic that is spreading around you.

But some believe that this anxiety, too, can be useful. An article on www.fastcompany.com is of the same opinion.

This anxiety is like a natural immune response, “almost like an algorithm”, says the writer of the article Adam Goldstein.

Anxiety works like our immune system, which uses a natural algorithm to defend our bodies from harmful bacteria or viruses. “By randomly shuffling up DNA billions of times to imagine almost every microbe that could threaten us, our immune system is able to uniquely identify viruses we haven’t encountered before so it can defend our bodies from any foreign invaders,” writes Goldstein.

With Covid-19, our immune systems err on the side of aggressively attacking the virus because it’s unfamiliar. So most people survive. “But when people do die, it’s sometimes a result of the body’s overreaction to the virus—a ‘cytokine storm’ — rather than the virus itself.”

This overreaction by the body is comparable to the extreme reaction of fear and uncertainty of the mind regarding the virus and the economic situation it’s created.

Deal with your stress

Goldstein talks about a few things to do if you're feeling anxious.

It’s normal to feel that there must be something wrong. But this is not necessarily true, because most people’s Paranoia Lines are set at a high level.

You shouldn’t just ask yourself: “What should I do about this thing I’m stressing about?' You should also ask: 'Is stressing about this thing making me incorrectly perceive it as a threat?” If you’re often stressed about smaller problems, your Paranoia Line might simply be calibrated too high.

The simple question above can identify an actual threat, which will allow you to direct your attention to the most important things. Instead of focusing on random stress points, you can then focus on action that will have the biggest impact.

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