How many times, I wonder, you we been advised to ‘calm down’ or ‘take long, calm, deep breaths’ when butterflies are tearing around our stomachs before we do something completely nerve-wracking.
I tried this for years as a method to combat horrendous public speaking anxiety.
Breathe in calm. Breath out peace.
While the breathing did help to lower my heart rate, overall this technique was a massive flop.
Because I wasn’t calm. Not even slightly! Everything inside of my body was the very opposite of calm. I was sweating and shaking and mumbling and trembling. My heart and mind were racing; my vision was blurry; I felt disconnected from reality.
No part of this relates to the sensation of calmness – but it does relate to excitement.
When I swapped my self-talk from calm to excitement, I saw an immediate lowering of nerves and increase of confidence. Because excitement just makes more sense.
If you’re about to do something nerve-wracking; it probably is genuinely something you’re fairly excited about at the same time. And as the feelings of excitement and fear are very similar in the body; it’s MUCH easier to trick yourself into really believing that you’re excited about the karaoke you’re about to do, rather than pretending you’re suddenly all zen.
Telling myself I was calm as my body was experiencing symptoms of near-panic, only ever made me panic more. It made me feel like I was out of control. The more I tried to calm, the more panicked I became.
Telling myself I was super excited about the challenge I was about to face, allowed me to regain some control. I stopped fighting the fight, flight, freeze and just acknowledged it as normal. This was a much more comfortable situation to be in.
Everyone is different and what worked for me might not necessarily be right for you. But if you’re struggling to remain ‘calm’ in situations that are anything but, then why not switch our your zen for a dose of good old-fashioned excitement? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of this below: