Does the thought of giving a solo presentation to a room full of colleagues twist your tummy into knots and cause you to lose sleep leading up to the big day? Well, that anxiety might actually be helping you to do your job better in the long run.
According to a paper based on other studies by Kate Sweeny, a psychology professor at the University of California, people who worry end up performing better, ask more questions, gain more information and are better at problem solving.
Wow, score one for the worrywarts.
“Despite its negative reputation, not all worry is destructive or even futile,” Sweeny said in a press release. “It has motivational benefits, and it acts as an emotional buffer.”
It makes sense if you think about it: he or she who worries most about a presentation prepares more and performs better as a result… usually. Worry serves as a reminder that something important is looming, keeps that deadline in the forefront of your mind and pushes you to do something about it.
If the presenter doesn’t do well as a result of their nerves, well, at least it’s over and he or she can stop worrying after — that’s the “emotional buffer” Sweeny referred to.
But according to Sweeny, the benefits of biting your nails (literally or just metaphorically) go beyond the obvious presentation. In fact, she even claims that it can promote good health, help recover from trauma or depression and aid in preparation.
“Interestingly enough, there are examples of a more nuanced relationship between worry and preventive behavior as well,” Sweeny said. “Women who reported moderate amounts of worry, compared to women reporting relatively low or high levels of worry, are more likely to get screened for cancer. It seems that both too much and too little worry can interfere with motivation, but the right amount of worry can motivate without paralyzing.”
While this might come as good news to worriers, stressing out certainly isn’t the way to maintain good mental health. Instead, just rest assured knowing that a bit of anxiety every once and a while isn’t a completely bad thing.