by Kyle Beard on Saturday, November 16th, 2019
When people are experiencing anxiety, the go-to thing that many people may have said to you is to calm down. They may think they are helping you, but they could actually be making it worse for you. Harvard Business School professor Allison Wood Brooks has alternative solutions to helping your anxiety to avoid having to go through the difficult shift of high anxiety to calm.
Our body goes through changes when we are feeling anxiety. Our heart rate changes, our breathing rate, and hormones are released to keep us alert and awake. In order to be at our best, we need to be highly aroused and awake. If we act too calm, we would have the wrong energy for tackling anxiety situations like being in front of a lot of people. Also, when we try to resist anxiety, this makes us feel anxious about our anxiety which makes our anxiety symptoms worse. We do not need to pay so much focus on our symptoms but to let them naturally pass.
Brooks believes that instead of trying so hard to calm down, try to get excited instead. It is a much easier transition because people think that anxiety and excitement are “arousal emotions.” Those are the times when you feel the most activated. Anxiety is when we feel the most resilience. We are wide awake until we imagine the worst-case scenarios of everything going wrong. We think that we will be laughed at and be embarrassed by ourselves. Excitement is different in which we focus on a positive future instead of not looking forward to it.
This is why it is easier to change from anxious to excited. We are not putting ourselves in a different state, but just changing the story around. In Brook’s research, she discovered that people who tried this method out not only performed better in singing and math but also had a more positive outlook on future events. Instead of seeing these tasks as threats, they were opportunities instead. This is the best piece of advice to take for our anxiety in that we need to brave the future instead of being terrified as it is going to happen no matter what. Having a more positive outlook on stressful events and opening up to someone about your fears will make it easier.
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