Fear and anxiety are likely two emotions that aren’t all that welcome in your day-to-day life. We all experience both fear and anxiety as human beings. But what is the difference between fear and anxiety? How can we view these seemingly unwanted emotions and make them work for us in some capacity?
First, let us get a handle on how fear and anxiety differ. Both emotions can create a flight-or-flight response. Fear is a state of what is happening in the present moment in response to an immediate threat. You see a bear on your bike ride, you see a [insert bug you hate], or it could be much more threatening.
On the other hand, anxiety is the fearful anticipation of something that might happen. The potential unpleasant event may never happen, and your thoughts and beliefs about the possible scenario spool you up into a frenzy of rumination, possibly feelings of helplessness, and general ickiness. Sometimes the anxiety about an event occurring is worse than actually having the event occur in real life.
Fear tends to dissipate after the threat is gone. Anxiety will linger after your situation has changed, even if it’s the situation you were initially worried about.
For more about anxiety and ways to cope with it, check out my podcast with Dr. Judson Brewer on Unwinding Anxiety.
So how can you view something like fear of anxiety in a more productive light? First, acceptance of these states, especially anxiety, is key. Second, ask yourself how this feeling has helped you in the past? A healthy dose of anxiety might drive you to prepare yourself for an upcoming presentation, learn more about your health, or train consistently for a race. The discomfort of not being prepared or something happening because you did not prepare can drive you to create positive habits and changes. Can you view this emotional state as both uncomfortable and productive the same time? Anxiety can have a meaningful and productive purpose.
However, a note is unchecked anxiety can be damaging, and it’s important to get professional help from a licensed professional if that’s the case.