There are those anxiety-inducing events, from your first karaoke song to asking your boss for a raise, when calming breaths just aren't enough to slow your pounding heart or dry your sweaty palms. If you're ready to try something new, and something that might actually improve your performance in these situations, you might want to try talking to yourself. Of course what you say matters — you just need to say "I am excited."
This sounds so simple that you might think we're making this up. But this technique comes directly from research performed at the Harvard Business School and was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, which both give it serious street cred in our opinion. Researchers found that trying to reduce anxiety might not even be the best approach in these stressful situations; rather than calming down, you want to manipulate the anxiety into a more empowering emotions, like excitement. After all, our physical experience of these two emotions are quite similar, so it is easier to flip the anxiety into excitement than to suppress it. Plus, according previous research cited in the Harvard study "moderate levels of anxiety may improve motivation on tasks" — so you want to harness that energy to improve your performance rather than spend energy trying to drastically change how you feel.
You can turn the dial from the fear-based anxiety into positive anticipation with a little positive self-talk by repeating "I am excited" out loud for just 60 seconds. This mantra will help reframe the stressful situation into something you're actually looking forward to. And that is much less draining, since trying to calm down can be so very challenging.
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