The Surprisingly Simple Way to Turn Anxiety Into Success

Katie Sweeney

I’m constantly looking for new ways to handle stress, so when I came across an Atlantic story that claimed anxiety could be channeled into success, I was intrigued. The article discusses a simple technique called “anxiety reappraisal,” in which anytime you feel nervous, you tell yourself to feel excited instead. So if you’re feeling anxious about a big presentation, instead of thinking I’m nervous about giving the presentation, you think I’m excited to give the presentation.

This works because anxiety and excitement are both aroused emotions that cause your heart to beat faster, cortisol levels to surge, and the body to prepare for action. The only difference between anxiety and excitement is that anxiety is a negative emotion and excitement is a positive one. When most people experience anxiety, they attempt to calm themselves down, but calmness is low on arousal, so it’s not effective. “It takes less effort for the brain to jump from charged-up negative feelings to charged-up positive ones than it would to get from charged-up and negative to positive and chill. In other words, it’s easier to convince yourself to be excited than calm when you’re anxious,” explains Olga Khazan.

Recent studies show that when you do this—replace the nerves with excitement—you’re more likely to succeed at whatever it is that is making you anxious. Whether it’s singing a song or taking a math test, if you reframe your anxiety into excitement, you will sing better and score higher. “By putting yourself in an opportunity mind-set, with a focus on all the good things that can happen if you do well as opposed to a threat mind-set, which dwells on all the consequences of performing poorly,” your performance becomes naturally stronger.

Learn more about combating anxiety by reading Rewire Your Anxious Brain.

Have you ever replaced anxiety with excitement? What happened?

Explore: anxiety, Success

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