THE BODY IS AN INSTRUMENT OF THE MIND
The body is an instrument of the mind! I have been keeping track on what my body is telling following my last blog and how my decision making impacts on me, my anxiety levels and my zest for life.
Disclosure time; I have a solid track record of anxiety with psychology records going back 8 or more years so I have a pretty good idea of what anxiety feels like. It can be overwhelming and paralyzing so I am certainly not minimizing the very real feeling.
I was, in fact only a day or two after writing my last blog, what I’d describe as anxiety ridden. Fear was having its way with me! Yes I work hard at living consciously and No I’m not Buddha! Courage is the key, I had the Courage to feeling the feelings and in particular the physical feeling of the anxiety I knew to be an emotional state of mind not real danger at all. It was then that I thought: “What if Anxiety and the physical feelings attached to Anxiety mirror Excitement and the feeling attached to Excitement?”
ANXIETY V EXCITEMENT
Is it possible the difference lies in the approach to and perception of the outcome? Anxiety arises when you feel dread towards the task at hand or the potential outcome. Excitement arises when you look forward to the task at hand or the potential outcome with anticipation. I did a bit of study (me being me) and here is what I found. Anxiety and Excitement are both aroused emotions. The heart beats faster adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol are released and the body prepares for fight or flight. OK so now we know the reptile brain is running the show and that can’t be a good thing can it? It turns out that may not be the case. Enter Professor Alison Wood Brooks (Asst. Prof Harvard Business School) and her game changing paper published in 2013.
“Get Excited: Re Appraising Pre Performance Anxiety as Excitement”
Professor Brooks defines anxiety as “a state of distress and/or physiological arousal in reaction to stimuli including novel situations and the potential for undesirable outcomes.” She notes there are two types of anxiety “Trait” and “State”. Trait anxiety refers to a personality characteristic similar to neuroticism that reflects an individual susceptibility to anxiety (what I have). State anxiety is situational and is a transient state anyone can experience. However the two are inextricably linked as individuals with Trait Anxiety suffer State Anxiety more frequently and in higher magnitudes.
REAPPRAISING ANXIETY AS EXCITEMENT
Reappraising Anxiety as Calmness verses Reappraising Anxiety as Excitement and the differing effects of such reappraisal has on performance is the focus of her research. Anxiety and Calmness are polar opposites in terms of physical arousal whereas Anxiety and Excitement are “Arousal Congruent”. The physical effect of Anxiety and Excitement on our systems is very similar making switching from Anxiety to Excitement by using cognitive techniques much easier than calming down.
Traditional advice for those suffering Anxiety is to Calm Down! Professor Brooks’ research on the other hand demonstrates reframing Anxiety as Excitement leads to much better results and they aren’t even close. In an experiment based on singing those who were asked to say “I Am Excited” (and believe it true as best they could) before performing out performed those who were ask to say nothing by around 33% . And they surpassed those who were asked to state “I Am Anxious” by a whopping 50%!
When participants in another experiment based on public speaking were asked to state out loud either “I am Calm” or “I am Excited” the Excited group out performed the Calm group by a large margin. Averaging around 13% across 4 different measures. The Excited group were perceived to be more persuasive, competent, confident and persistent; further they spoke longer. Prof. Brooks then replicated the result in an experiment using mathematics for good measure.
WHAT ABOUT CALMING DOWN?
Calming Down requires a complete reversal of the physical effects. You are left struggling with a cocktail of hormones racing around your body. Frankly when you tell your body to “Calm Down it’s all OK!” it doesn’t believe you! However when your body checks out the Physical Symptoms of Excitement it goes “OK that’s possible!” It turns out all you have to do to turn performance destroying anxiety into performance enhancing excitement is tell yourself;
“I AM EXCITED!”
If you change the perception you change the outcome. So why is that? Professor Brooks’ final experiment looked at this exact question: Why does it work?
WHY DOES THIS WORK?
The answer appears to lie in the difference between a positive and a negative mid set. People who adopt a positive mindset see opportunities. People with a negative mindset see threats in exactly the same situation. When you are anxious you are operating from a negative emotional state so you see threats. When you cognitively change that by telling yourself you are excited you create the potential to see opportunities
Being able to see opportunity is vital to changing your outcomes. By reappraising your internal emotional state you change your perspective on the situation you are in. What was threatening can become promising, what was a complete loss becomes a chance to create something new and a simple statement of intent appears sufficient to do the trick. Get Excited!
AND THE EFFECT IS CUMULATIVE
You make a Conscious decision to view your emotional state as Excited not Anxious. You see a way to make a change, you do better, and then there’s another opportunity, you take it; and you start to believe, and then you think you are going to perform well so you do perform well, you get excited about the next challenge and guess what you do better still!
Now I’m not saying anxiety is always going to be overcome or out performed by reframing it to excitement. For example anxiety over my MBA Stats paper got me motivated earlier and the hard work paid off with a great result. What I am saying is Live Consciously, be conscious of this effect. Look at what is coming at you and frame it as an opportunity or a challenge you can and will overcome not a problem or a difficulty you must face.
Its tough I KNOW thats why I’d like to share with you 5 Ways I use To Beat Anxiety and Get Excited. I’m doing it and it‘s working for me, which is why I am sharing it, so why not give it a go and Get Excited!
Wood Brooks, A. Harvard Business School “Get Excited: Re Appraising Pre Performance Anxiety as Excitement” https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication Files/xge-a0035325 (2)_0287835d-9e25-4f92-9661-c5b54dbbcb39.pdf