Dr Monisha Kanya Savarimuthu, DPM(Psych), USA

Feeling anxious about your upcoming project? Worried that your worry too much? Ever wondered how to best deal with this? Most professionals often deal with this by telling themselves to calm down. But apparently there is a better way to deal with this.   A Harvard study by Alicia Brooks, has found that the more often individuals reappraise their pre-performance anxiety as excitement, the more likely they may be to trigger upward motivational spirals, and the happier and more successful they may become. She quotes ‘instead of trying to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” perhaps the path to success begins by simply saying “I am excited.” She investigated this and tested the effectiveness of this alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. She studied a sample of young working U.S. citizens in their early twenties. Participants were exposed to three high performance activities which were karaoke singing, public speaking and math performance. Prior to the performance, they were asked to choose from three options ““ I am excited”, “ I am anxious” or no statement and say them out aloud. In all three groups, better performance with a higher confidence was noted in those who said they were excited in all three activities. The outcomes were measured as quality of singing, math scores, level of confidence, heart rate differences and subjective emotions in all three groups. Also, before starting the study, a questionnaire analysis revealed that about 90% of the participants told themselves to calm down before an activity. 1   Positive psychology suggests that happiness in life comes from the frequency, not the intensity, of positive versus negative emotional experiences (Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 2009; Shiota, 2006). Building on this work, we can expect that issuing multiple positive self-statements such as “I am excited” does not produce diminishing marginal returns.1   So the next time you feel ‘suicidal’ about a project, try using the “I’m excited” or the “Maniac” strategy! Good luck!!

Reference: Alison Wood Brooks. Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement. Harvard Business School. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 2014, Vol. 143. No. 3, 1144-1158. DOI: 10.1037/a0035325

Disclaimer: These tips should not be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor for those with anxiety disorders


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