Richard was feeling anxious. If you asked him, this feeling wasn’t helpful. He was asked to give a speech in front of his company and present his findings to the entire staff. All he felt was dread at the idea of doing this. Sure he knew his material, but having to be front and center at the podium, look at 50 of his fellow workers and talk, created high anxiety. The stress was getting to him. Most of us can relate to a time when we felt the same. Piano recitals, class presentations, work-related speeches, etc. The stress is definitely there and what we do with it matters.
Was there a way for Richard to use those anxious feelings to help him? Yes!
Researchers Blascovich & Mendes (2000) note that when we are motivated by challenge versus threat, challenge can actually improve our performances. Challenge can help us think better, cooperate and be better decision-makers. So when faced with a scary performance, appraise it as a challenge rather than a threat.
So if you look at the scary speech as something that is challenging, you will probably do better. Use your anxiety in a good way–embrace, don’t deny it–seeing it as a normal part of doing something that is challenging. How we think about the situation impacts our physiology and our behavior.
Stressed by that test or recital performance? Tell yourself, this is a challenge I can face, not avoid. Yes, I’m anxious but I can push through this anxiety and do my best.
Anxiety just might be the energy you need to push yourself forward to do what you need to do. This is a much different way to think about how you are feeling. If you cower in nerves and tell yourself you can’t do it, it can make you so tense, you might fall apart. So how you think matters!
And for those of you with a faith perspective, the verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” gives you confidence to face any challenge! Yes, it might create stress and anxiety, but thinking of the situation as something you can face because of Christ who gives strength, will motivate you through the difficulty.