Anxiety blocker #1: channel that energy

This is a time of high anxiety. London’s city noise is filled increasingly with ambulance sirens. Clients are closing offices, meetings are going virtual and every conversation seems to start with a topic related to the Coronavirus.

And there is reason to be fearful as there are some real dangers that come with a pandemic. However, where does fear end and anxiety start? And what to do with all that extra adrenaline? Research seems to suggest that we can manage our anxiety to some degree if we decide to leverage the energy it creates into something positive. As part of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, participants were preparing to perform a song in front of an audience. As anxiety levels rose in anticipation of the performance, each participant was given a short sentence that they had to say to themselves out loud. This sentence was different for each individual and some read “I am calm” , others “I am anxious”, “I am sad”, “I am excited”, or  “I am sad”. Some received a blank piece of paper with no statement on it at all.  Once study participants had read that sentence, their performance was evaluated by a voice recognition software and scored on volume, pitch and note duration. Do you have any guess as to which group performed the worst? You probably got this, it was “I am anxious”.

The best performers, on the other hand, were those participants who had read out “I am excited”.  Why? Using the energy that had been created as a result of the initial anxiety and working with the body’s physiology and a positive mindset (moving towards “I get to perform” as opposed to “I am afraid to perform”) seemed to have done the trick. So turning a threat into an opportunity is a choice we can make. And if it feels impossible to bring a positive mindset to an apparent threat, how about using that extra adrenaline and channel it into something that gives us energy. We can honour that we may be terrifyingly anxious. And we can then look for what part of us can feel deeply excited about our here and now or our future and then go and leverage that energy boost to do good.