Your throat is tightening, heart races, your back feels tense and you may had few sleepless nights. That familiar feeling creeps in. Anxiety.
Our natural reaction is to get away as far as possible from this feeling- which often results in drinking too much, frequent visits to the fridge or simply avoidance and wasting hours of your time aimlessly surfing the internet.
But how about if instead of trying to suppress anxiety we could simply welcome and befriend it, when it shows up?
According to famous, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard anxiety is a very natural condition. Soren believed that anxiety was a feeling that in fact powers creativity instead of sabotaging it. He described anxiety as a liberating possibility that should be embraced rather than suppressed. In his own words “ One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever”.
Wouldn’t it be liberating if we could share this attitude towards anxiety, accepting it as a natural component of our everyday lives? Let’s look at three inspiring ways for turning anxiety into power:
1. Accept the reality- face the feeling of anxiety and admit that you are feeling anxious. Anxiety is just a feeling, like any other. Realizing that you are simply undergoing an emotional reaction makes it easier for you to accept it. Once you accept and become more comfortable with this feeling you can eliminate thoughts that worsen it.
2. Question your thoughts- challenge the thought process that is running through your mind. When we get anxious, we tend to develop most gloomy scenarios that are very unlikely to occur in reality. Perhaps you are paralysed by the thought of delivering a presentation or giving a speech at a family gathering. Ask yourself few useful questions, i.e. is my worry realistic, what’s the worse situation that may happen, how likely is it to happen and what I may do to prepare myself for such situation.
3. Reframe anxiety as excitement- public speaking, going through exams, attending a job interview or performing in front of people, all these situations can fill us with anxiety. But instead of trying to suppress the feeling and forcing yourself to calm down, allow yourself to get excited. Anxiety can be very debilitating when it leads to inaction. To avoid, that, focus on possibility, visualize the success and how you feel once the ‘testing time’ is over. Turning your anxiety into excitement will help you to become a more persuasive and competent performer.
The more time you spend on clarifying your feelings and emotions ‘here and now’ the calmer you will become. You learn to remind yourself that this is ‘just anxiety’, and while it may not be ideal, it is certainly not intolerable.