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Alison Wood Brooks is a professor at Harvard Business School who’s researched anxiety. And she says, instead of trying to completely flip the script on anxiety by trying to relax – we’re better off transforming our anxiety into something it’s closer to… Excitement. In a study, Brooks tested participants by having them complete anxiety-inducing tasks: like singing karaoke, doing a math test, and giving a speech.

And when participants said, “I’m excited” before the tasks, they not only felt more positive, they also performed better.

That’s because excitement and anxiety have something in common – they’re both emotions of arousal. They both make our heart beat faster and stimulate a stress response. But the difference is that anxiety is negative, whereas excitement is positive… that’s why it’s easier to get from anxiety to excitement, than from anxiety to calm.

So Dr. Brooks says, the next time you’re anxious – don’t take deep breaths to relax. Try saying, “I’m excited!” instead.

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