Choking under pressure is a common response whether you’re playing the lead in the third grade Christmas play or giving an important business presentation. Unfortunately, about 90% of people handle stressful situations poorly.
A recent experiment shows that getting excited works better than trying to calm down. During a public singing contest, students were given various instructions. Those who said, “I am excited,” scored an average of 81% compared to 69% for those who said, “I am anxious,” and 53% for those who said, “I am calm.”
Learn how to use anxiety to your advantage when you’re in high stress situations. These tips will help you to perform better even when your palms are sweating.
- Remain fired up. It’s difficult to calm down when your body is on high alert. Excitement is an easier state to capture when you feel anxious and your heart rate is up.
- Distract yourself from self-doubts. You may have an interior monologue going on criticising what you’re saying or how you look. Divert your attention to pleasant mental images or focus on the people around you.
- Focus on the positive. Think about what you have to gain in the situation. Focus on entertaining or helping your audience rather than worrying about forgetting your lines or losing your job.
- Generate flow. Put aside the outcomes for the moment. Lose yourself in the process. Enjoy what you’re doing for its own sake.
- Rename your feelings. Tell yourself you’re excited. Your brain will like that better than being anxious.
- Remember the benefits of anxiety. Anxiety has its positive side. It motivates us to take action. Without some anxiety, we would have little incentive to work or do anything challenging.
- Accept your feelings. Realise that anxiety is natural. Everyone experiences uncertainty and wonders what will happen in the future. By some estimates, about 20% of people report that their performance suffers when they feel tense.
- Seek long term peace. While it’s difficult to calm down on short notice, serenity is still a worthwhile goal. Your mind and body need time to recover after demanding experiences. Manage stress, get good quality sleep, and make time for relaxation.
- Evaluate advice. High anxiety makes people more likely to seek outside advice and less likely to assess it accurately. Think before you follow someone else’s recommendations. Consider how to adapt them to your own circumstances.
- Engage in rituals. Even irrational practices can help. Many athletes hold onto lucky bottle caps or wear a certain pair of socks. Find your own good luck charm
- Beware of manipulation. Unfortunately, researchers also found that anxious people were more likely to attract advisors who would deliberately mislead them. Be extra careful if you have any doubts.
- Acknowledge genetics. There’s a strong hereditary basis for stress responses. Some people are more physiologically sensitive. But, everyone can learn to become more resilient.
- Empathise with yourself and others. Anxiety is often confused with weakness. While you’re learning to manage your emotions, give yourself credit for becoming more adept. Encourage others who are going through similar struggles.
- Seek professional advice. If anxiety is interfering with your life, there are effective treatments. Talk with your doctor to see if medication or therapy may be helpful.
You can make anxiety work for you. Just stop calling it anxiety and tap into your excitement. You’ll feel better and enjoy more success.