You are feeling anxious? Lucky you.
I am going to get on my soapbox for a couple minutes here. I think everybody can thrive from anxiety. However, the feelings of anxiety often make us uncomfortable. The root of this anxiety is because neither you, nor I, really know how to use our anxiety. Because here is the thing, anxiety could just be one of the most powerful innate skills we as humans possess, and instead of running with it, we run from it. If you look up the definition of anxiety this is what you will find:
“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
Then scroll down and take a peek at the synonyms: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, uneasiness, unease, fearfulness, fear, disquiet, agitation, angst, misgiving, nervousness, nerves, tension, and tenseness.
Well I think, while I am up here on my soapbox, I would like to pick a fight. I would like to pick a fight with the idea that anxiety is a negative thing. I would argue that anxiety is indeed a positive thing. I’ll use with another word, excited. The definition of excited reads: stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity, aroused, to cause; awaken. Now I may be the only one, but I have experienced both these feelings and have come to realize that the feelings can overlap a great deal. Are you going on a first date? How do you feel–anxious or excited? Are you buckling your seat on a roller coaster? Is that feeling anxiousness or excitement? Competing in a game? I ask you the same question. Are these feelings only anxiety or only excitement–often times it seems hard to have one without the other.
An excessive amount of anxiety is not beneficial, I agree. When it creeps its way into places it doesn’t belong, anxiety can cause problems from a physiological standpoint. And that is not going to do anyone any good. But, what if we can channel small amounts of anxiety into positive performance. Even an abundance of anxiety can be transformed into a wealth of energy and excitement. We can change the way our body responds to anxiety if we first change the way we think about it. People do not walk up to a podium in front of 500 people without anxiety. The players in the NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA have all had their share of this feeling. However, the athletes and people that view anxiety as a strength and a skill for performing are the ones that can reach optimal performance.
If you asked every person if they have experienced this feeling, I would be surprised to hear if even one person had not. It is a natural response developed with our “fight or flight” reflex many years ago. And we still find it prevalent today. The role of anxiety has clearly left a genetic imprint that is crucial to our evolution (and to your success). So before I step down from up here where the view is great, I will ask you to remember one thing. The next time you feel your anxiety kick in, heart racing, sweat going, palms sweaty, and body shaky don’t run from it. Run with it. I am willing to bet you will run much faster with it, then without it.
Want to hear more about this topic? Watch this TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal.