Now roll with me on this and I will explain.
It’s the finals tonight. Imagine you are about to take the penalty kick that will win England the game. You need laser-sharp focus; to be able to block out the crowds, the cameras and every other distraction around you. You need to feel alert, strong and confident.
You have one job, to get the ball in the back of the net and you don’t want anything stopping you.
The pressure is on. The adrenaline is running through your body; your heart is beating faster, your palms are starting to sweat, the blood is rushing to your legs.
You recognise that familiar fight-or-flight feeling of anxiety.
You remain calm. You hold your nerve.
You are ultra-focused. You are in control.
You eye up the goal and score.
The home crowd goes wild. You are a HERO!
We can all use anxiety to our advantage, be it during a football match, driving test or a job interview for example. It can help us to be at our best.
Many performers thrive on these feelings of focus and strength just before they go on stage, and the scariest ride that gives us the biggest adrenaline rush often has the longest queue at the theme park.
So can changing your mindset help with anxiety? The answer is definitely yes. Depending on how we interpret the feeling, and our relationship with anxiety, will depend if it can help or hinder us.
Kelly McGonigal, in her book The Upside of Stress, reports how “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion”.
However, the mere thought of stress or anxiety usually brings to mind thoughts of something to be avoided at all costs. We have repeatedly heard it makes us sick.
Anxiety has become the enemy, but there is also a positive side when it should be accepted and even embraced. While anxiety is described as a general feeling of fear, uneasiness, panic or nervousness, its goal (see what I did there) is to keep us safe and alert and ensure we avoid any perceived or real danger.
We know that the triggers for anxiety are different for everyone. One person may fear driving along the motorway while someone else may fear walking into a supermarket. One person may fear dogs, the other spiders. One person may fear leaving the house, while another person fears confined spaces. What this tells us is that everyone has a unique relationship with anxiety, and it is our beliefs and our perception of previous events that often drive our fears. We were not born this way, it is a learnt behaviour and we often resort to unhelpful coping strategies.
So our mindset can help with anxiety by accepting it is here to serve us, and embracing strategies that empower us. We can then identify and change the limiting beliefs that have previously been holding us back.
This is exactly what the England team have been doing, and it has enabled them to reach the finals. And if it is good enough for them, you may just want to find out more?
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