Need to calm down in order to nail a presentation to the C-Suite, step up to the plate when bases are loaded, or strike up a conversation with the prettiest girl in the bar? Don’t try and calm down—get excited.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, priming yourself to feel excited reduces anxiety more than trying to be calm. In one experiment, 113 participants singing karaoke were instructed to say they were anxious, calm, excited, angry, or sad before singing a rock song on a game console. They all had their heart rate measured while singing. Those who said they were excited scored an eighty per cent by the console’s rating system. Those who said that they were calm, angry, or sad averaged sixty-nine per cent, whilst those who said they were anxious scored a fifty-three.
In another experiment, 140 participants had to prepare a persuasive speech, and were told that they would be judged by a committee. Before speaking, half had to say “I am calm”, and half had to say “I am excited”. According to independent evaluators, the excited group tended to rate higher in terms of competence, appearing relaxed, and persuasion. They also gave longer speeches.
So, when you’re in a stressful situation, don’t worry about performing well—be happy for the challenge.