Author: Daniel Nguyen
As a college student, I constantly fall into situations and activities that lead to anxiety and stress. Whether I'm taking a final, heading to a job interview, or doing a presentation in front of my class, anxiety always seems to get the best of me. Most of the time my anxiety cripples down to the point where it can negatively impact how I present myself in these situations. If you find yourself in an anxiety-inducing activity, you may have tried to tell yourself to calm down and relax. Many of us have probably been told that doing this will help, but I am here to tell you that this is the complete opposite of what you should do. Believe it or not, if you want to perform better and help dampen the effects of anxiety, get excited! If you tell yourself to get excited, you may find that you will do much better in these situations than if you focused on relaxation!
Studies on college students at Harvard University has shown getting yourself to become excited helps with performance on activities that trigger anxiety. In the study, they had 140 participants prepare a public speech. They randomly told people to say either, "I am excited!" or "I am calm." before they begin. It was found that those who said they were excited gave longer, persuasive, and relaxed speeches than those who said they were calm.
If you are unsure on how to get yourself to become excited, try saying out loud a simple statement on excitement! Telling yourself, "I am excited!" can lead you to adopt a more opportunistic mindset which can help bring you to feel more excited about your performance! On the other hand, telling yourself to calm down is ineffective and will most likely produce unwanted effects because you will start thinking about all the things that can go wrong in the performance. You want to instead tell yourself about how things can go really well in your performance, and getting yourself excited will help a lot with this.
I've always struggled with presentations and interviews, and fighting against anxiety makes it twice as worse. But gradually I became better at managing it. It used to be the case where even knowing that I'm about to present next will cause my heart to race and my body to get all sweaty and itchy. My voice would sound weak and at this point I would start messing up my sentences when I speak. Thankfully, near the end of high school I adopted the excitement method to try to help with my anxiety, and I would say it helped a ton! It's hard to explain, but if I'm getting excited for something, my thought process changes as a whole. It makes me feel like I'm showing the class something amazing rather than feeling like the class will be judging every move I make.
Being excited helps drift my focus away from irrational thoughts. Whenever I get anxiety, I start thinking negatively about how other people might perceive my actions. This would always cause me to lose my train of thought during a presentation or interview because I would think to myself, "Wait…are people understanding what I am saying right now?" and I would proceed to ponder about what my next word choices should be. All of this contributes to an overwhelming feeling of doom. Gratefully, getting myself to be excited helps clear this mindset because it shifts my attention from how people perceive me to how exciting the subject is!
In a nutshell, anxiety can be a big influence in the choices we make and how we act. Feeling excited about what you're about to dive into will highly improve your performance. While this did help me a ton, I wouldn't say this got rid of all of my anxiety. I still get nervousness and irrational thoughts from time to time, but this method has helped calm my anxiety down immensely. And to whomever is still reading this and needs help with anxiety, please don't try to calm yourself, instead become enthusiastic! Be thrilled that you have the chance to perform! Be inspired that you can finally do your presentation! Be eager to take that test and ace it! It's all about populating your mindset with positive attitude and thoughts!
American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2018.