Random fact… the brain sends similar signals to the body whether we are feeling anxious or excited. This might be the reason why Marshal Mathers was able to drop bombs in his rap battles even though his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
While anxiety and excitement have conflicting effects on our ability to perform, the physical responses are much the same in that there is an anticipation that causes high arousal. Heart racing, sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach, technically this could be in anticipation of speaking to a crowded room or leaning in for a kiss.
Our brain is really an organ (a phenomenal one at that), that sends signals to our body through our nervous system, and much like how we can consciously take in a deep breath (you’re doing that now right), we can also consciously tell our brain what it is that we want to think! You can choose to feel better about something, you can choose to view a situation differently, and you can choose to be excited instead of anxious.
And I totally get that for a lot of us, the anxiety seems automatic, as though it has a life of its own, gripping around your throat and chest, and the more we try and think it away the worse it feels…
Phew… time of another conscious breath…
There is a very good reason for that automatic response our brains are designed to learn, and a lot of what they learn is through repetitive thought, feelings, and behaviour. Remember learning to read? It felt almost overwhelming as if we would never be able to get the words out easily, and with time and practice you’re breezing through this email, without much thought about how to read or pronounce the words.
The bad news is that much the same, our brains learned to be anxious. The good news is that we can also teach our brains to be excited, calm, relaxed, or at peace.
So over the next few days, why not think back to when last specifically you felt anxious? Become aware of what exactly was going on at that moment. What were you looking at, what were you thinking, what did you hear, what did you feel? By doing this, you may begin to pinpoint the activation point that your brain identifies as the “button to run the anxiety program”.