Anxiety is being spoken about more than ever. With the coining of the term high-functioning anxiety to describe millennial stress and the news that 8 million people are suffering from anxiety disorders in the UK, it can all feel a bit doom and gloom.
It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between having an anxiety disorder and feeling anxious, which can be a part of normal part of life. Most of us will occasionally feel extremely nervous – for example, when preparing for a job interview or before a big presentation at work. In these situations, it’s normal to feel your anxiety levels rise, as well as some of the symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder, such as nauseousness, dizziness or difficulty concentrating.
But although it’s important to be aware of the facts surrounding anxiety and how it might affect us, we think it’s fair to say that some good news would be welcome right about now.
Cue new research that explores how we can turn our negative anxious energy into something positive.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, investigates the theory that trying to calm anxiety can actually be counterproductive, because it stunts what might be useful energy.
If approached in the right way, researchers believe that we could harness that nervous energy to help us deal with the very thing we’re nervous about.
Researchers recommend repeating the mantra “I am excited” to help you embrace the task in hard, instead of trying to detach from it.
Alison Wood Brooks, author of the study, Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement, explains that she used situations loaded with anticipation to test her theory, such as “karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance”.
Watch: What not to say to an anxiety sufferer
She reports: “I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety.”
“I investigate an alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. Compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better.”
Brooks encourages sufferers to repeat affirming mantras about being excited to themselves out loud in a bid to convince their minds that the upcoming situation is positive.
However, it’s worth noting that this method will only work if you’re feeling anxious about actively doing something that uses a lot of energy.
The research was conducted specifically into performance anxiety, meaning that it wouldn’t be suited to beating night-time anxiety for example, where you do need to relax.
If you suffer from anxiety, experts advise that you visit you GP to explore the number of treatments available.
You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.
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