Anxiety or Excitement?

business laughter stress May 12, 2009

Answer: Pink slip… Bonus….

Question: What’s the difference between anxiety and excitement?

Seriously, though, what is the difference between being anxious and excited?

When you think about it, the two are closely related, but they differ by a degree of perspective. What is your mindset? Are you envisioning the situation you’re thinking about coming out with a positive outcome or with a negative outcome?

We know from studies that a little stress, sometimes known as eustress, can be a good thing. A little stress causes us to be alert, to be ready, to have our “game on.” To have absolutely no stress results in you being the equivalent of a puddle of protoplasm on the floor—no energy, no movement, static—not dynamic. No matter how tempting it may sound, it’s not really good to have no stress in your life!

Too much stress, however, clouds our thinking, muddles our memory, causes us to make dumb mistakes—not to mention, it just feels bad. Who can’t relate to tight shoulders, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, queasiness, and (I think I’ll stop—this is stressing me out just thinking about the symptoms!)

So how does one go about changing anxiety to excitement? I always recommend breathing for starters. You laugh, but I’m serious. So often, when we become anxious, our breath becomes shallow and more rapid—but not more effective. Stop and take a few deep breaths. (One of my audience participants told me she had a sign on her computer that read: Breathe, my dear!). If you really want to get some extra bang for your buck, laugh—out loud—from your belly. And, nope, it doesn’t even have to be a real laugh.  Sometimes, it’s okay to fake it.

Now take a look at how you’re framing the situation. Are you already certain that there’s going to be a negative outcome? Stop. Consciously focus on the potential positive outcomes of the situation. Come on, there’s got to be something good that will come out of the situation. Put on your exaggeration hat and be silly if need be—but find that positive outcome.

Let’s say, for example, you’re getting ready to take a test. You may be experiencing anxiety because you’re afraid you’re going to fail.  Stop. Focus on the likelihood that you’re going to pass with flying colors. And if you need to, become playful with your thinking. It doesn’t have to be rolling-on-the-floor-funny. Visualize the instructor with her shoes on the wrong feet, or with something stuck between her teeth, or whatever it takes to move you from a clenched-fist-posture to one of an inner smile.

Simply by taking some proactive steps to decrease your anxiety and increase your energy, you’ve already increased the likelihood that the outcome is gonna be great. And that’s no joke!


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