How often do you find yourself with one foot on the gas and one on the brake, ready to jump into a new career, business, or position but too anxious and fearful to wade into the unknown?
What if there was a way to harness that anxious energy and turn it into forward momentum? Here are three ways to do exactly that.
Embrace the Growth Mindset
Take a moment and think back on your life. Look at those times of tremendous growth and change, and try to remember what that felt like for you. What was your level of anxiety around these milestones? When you moved out of your parent’s house for the first time, were you nervous? When you started your first job in your desired career, did that thrill also carry some anxiety?
The truth is, growth doesn’t happen without uncertainty. By definition, growth and progress require you to be at your edge and to find the courage to move past it. So, the first step is to recognize and allow the discomfort as part of the process. Once you accept the inseparability of stepping out of your comfort zone in order to grow and change, you can stop running from it.
Reframe the Anxiety
And, once you stop running you can look at how you can productively manage and redirect that anxiety.
Take a quiet moment here to explore these feelings. What does the anxiety feel like physically? Maybe it’s a tension in your chest and throat or tightness in your stomach. Perhaps it’s a feeling of runaway thoughts of “what if” that explore every possible worst-case scenario. Now that you’re not running from the anxiety, see what you can learn from it. Spend a few moments being curious about it.
Now, take a couple of deep breaths and come back to the present moment. Think back to a time when you were really excited about something. Maybe it was a vacation or reuniting with a loved one. Again, take a quiet moment and reflect on the physical sensations. Now, compare the two. What are the similarities between anxiety and excitement? What are the differences?
Many of my clients find a lot of commonalities between the two. In fact, Harvard researcher Allison Wood Brooks found that it’s far easier to reframe anxiety into excitement than it is to try to calm down. https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=45869
Spend some time looking at how you label these feelings. Are you wishing you could replace the anxiety with calm? Instead, see if you can start calling those feelings “energy” or “excitement.” And instead of wishing for the opposite, harness that energy and use it!
Redirect the Energy
Is it now possible to use that “energy” in a different way?
One of my clients was up all night worrying about a new business venture. Tossing and turning, she couldn’t stop her mind from racing around all the things that could go wrong. We explored a few solutions, but the one that came out on top was simply getting up and doing something.
First, ask yourself “What am I worried about?” Then, make a list of the things that you can do about it, the things that are in your control. And do it!
Instead of “What if my project fails?” ask yourself “What if it’s a huge success?” By simply reframing that nervous energy, we can transform it into a limitless supply of motivation and forward momentum.
The next time you find yourself in the grip of anxiety, see if you can explore it and find a way to harness that energy by reframing it and directing it towards doing something about it!