An Exciting Approach to Managing Anxiety

Sometimes I chuckle to myself thinking about a moment years ago when my young cousin was feeling nervous. I had been encouraging her to try a breathing technique to calm down. After a few tries, she said, “I don’t want to breathe. I’m too wound up!”. Though she could have given the breathwork more of a chance, she had a point. It can be a real challenge to come down from a heightened emotional state.  

As an alternative, I present to you… turning anxious energy into excited energy!  

Anxiety and excitement are more similar than you’d think. Physiologically, they are essentially the same, but the key difference is that anxiety is interpreted as a negative experience, and excitement is interpreted as a positive experience.   

Harvard completed a study that tasked various individuals with giving speeches, singing karaoke, and taking math tests. All participants were told they would be evaluated on their performances to maximize anxiety levels. A group of these participants were randomly assigned to say “I am excited” prior to their performances. It was found that these participants generally received higher ratings than the participants who did not use this technique. By changing their interpretation of their anxiety, even if it was only out loud, they allowed themselves to enhance their performances by shifting out of a threat mindset and into an opportunity mindset.  

Next time you’re feeling nervous, instead of saying that you’re nervous, try saying, “I’m excited!” or “This is exciting!”. Saying this over and over to yourself can help you to use that high level of energy in a way that’s a bit more functional, potentially allowing yourself to come across as more persuasive, competent, and confident to others.  

This technique is great for situations involving social and performance anxiety, though it can be used for a wide range of anxious moments. Choosing to tune into the benefits of a situation, even if the only benefits are experiencing something new or facing a fear, can allow you to visualize more positive outcomes. 

Give it a try – it can only help!  

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