We all have experiences throughout our lives that create feelings of anxiety leading up to them. Sometimes the fear is so overwhelming that it causes us to achieve less than what we know we are capable of or bail all together. In an attempt to remedy this, we often tell ourselves to calm down, or, even worse, someone else tells you to calm down. Has that ever worked ever? I doubt it. But there is something that will – getting excited. Here’s why and how you can beat anxiety with excitement.
It turns out that anxiety and excitement have pretty much the same effect on our body – a heightened sense of arousal, quicker heart rate, and release of cortisol. The difference is that excitement is considered positive while anxiety is considered negative, which means it’s all about our perception of this state of being. Cognitively reframing feelings of anxiety as feelings of excitement will not only alleviate some of the fear, but it actually improves performance.
In a study by Dr Alison Wood Brooks, professor at Harvard Business School, the participants were put into different situations that would cause anxiety or stage fright. Some people participated in karaoke singing, others had to compete in a public speaking contest, while the last group was assigned a difficult math exam. I know all of these sound like a nightmare to me.
Within each of these groups, they were also given different instructions to prepare mentally beforehand. They were assigned to either tell themselves to keep calm, tell themselves to get excited, or tell themselves nothing. The groups who told themselves to get excited outperformed the other participants in all three situations.
As opposed to being in an anxious mindset where you feel threatened and predict of all the bad things that can happen, they determined that getting excited creates an opportunity mindset. When you are in an opportunity mindset, you naturally think of all the good things that can happen.
Mentally reframing anxiety as excitement alleviates some fear and actually improves performance. Click To Tweet
To beat anxiety with excitement and reap the benefits, simply tell yourself “I am excited” or “get excited” the next time you have a daunting task, event, or other looming situation. If you want to take it a step further, it’s also helpful to list off ways that the situation has potential to go well, benefit you, or help others.
I have done some pretty extreme activities over the years – from white water rafting to skydiving to bungee jumping. I was absolutely terrified before each one, but they all have an obvious element of fun and adventurousness. I was able to push through the fear and go for it because I was excited for the opportunity and the enjoyment of the experience. If we apply this same sense of excitement to situations like public speaking or a job interview, we can create the same positive result.
What activities make you feel anxious? Was there a time when you beat anxiety with excitement?