Here's Proof That Telling An Anxious Person To 'Calm Down' Doesn't Work

No deep breaths in this scenario.

The panicked feeling you get right before a big presentation is hardly cause for excitement. But viewing it as one may be the key to a better performance.

As The Atlantic video above explains, repurposing your anxiety over certain situations can help improve their outcome. A 2014 Harvard Business School study found that when individuals told themselves "I am excited" before a big test, speech or event, their performances significantly improved. The phrase allowed them to shift from seeing the event as a threat to seeing it as an opportunity.

The trick that didn't work? Trying to calm down. Turns out it's psychologically more simple to shift from anxiety to excitement because they're both states of arousal. Trying to shift from anxious to calm, however, is not easy at all.

The research further corroborates the longstanding argument that telling someone with anxiety to just "take a breath" doesn't work. Obviously, it's not that simple. While the study subjects didn't feel any less anxious by telling themselves they were excited, they seemed to be more successful despite their stress.

Just a little food for thought before your next big work presentation.

Take a look at the video above for more on transforming anxiety into excitement.

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