Flying on an airplane. Sickness. Driving on the freeway after being in a car accident. That orange man with the crazy hair as our next president. Starting a blog and having other people read my thoughts. These are just a few things that cause me anxiety.
I didn’t actually notice my anxious tendencies until I started college, however I’m inclined to think that they were always there (Thanks, Mom!). I’ve lived with some level of anxiety since then but have learned to manage it and avoid having any more episodes of panic. In some ways, my anxiety helped me survive PT school. I was extremely focused and driven to not just do the bare minimum to pass. It has continued to help me now as a Physical Therapist; I’m a perfectionist (as is most every other PT). But anxiety does have its obvious drawbacks on a personal level, the major one being that sometimes I don’t feel as if I can truly relax, especially when I’m already anxious.
When I read this article describing a technique called “anxious reappraisal”, as a way to turn anxiety into better performance, I was intrigued. It’s a simple cognitive trick, which is as basic as telling yourself that you feel excited whenever you feel nervous. Anxiety and excitement are both aroused emotions (as opposed to calmness), but excitement is a positive emotion. Because both emotions are already on the same level, it’s much easier for the brain to switch from anxiety to excitement.
It seems hard to believe that it could work, but scientists put it to the test and found that people who said “I am excited”, when put into anxiety-inducing scenarios (think karaoke-ing, giving a speech), outperformed those who said the words “I am anxious” or said nothing at all. They found that physiologically nothing had changed, “because the underlying anxiety was the same- it was just reframed as excitement.” In some ways it feels like a “fake it till you make it” attitude.
This is fascinating to me and I’m anxious (see what I did there?) to try it out the next time I fly or see Donald Trump on the news. 🙂
This satirical article from The New Yorker describing featured attractions at Anxiety Land Theme Park, such as “Regular Elevator” and “Fairly Smooth Flight.” I love this: “Find yourself seized with fear when you reach your floor and… the doors don’t open right away. That’s right- there’s a three-second delay.” I have definitely had this exact thought haha.
And this article from The Cut, 25 female celebrities describe their struggles with anxiety and depression. It’s refreshing and inspiring to hear women, who have very public reputations to uphold, be so open and honest about their anxiety. They are trying to erase the stigma of mental illness. I related to this from actress Mara Wilson (aka Matilda): “When you face anxiety, when you realize what it is, when you understand that it’s just this false alarm in your body, then you can work with it. Then you can overcome it.”