Whether a first date, big presentation, interview for a job, we have all experienced that moment where our heart races, palms sweat, feet tap, and negative self-talk intervenes. These reactions are common before any event that one might consider stressful and often leaves us feeling like we have no control, only increasing the anxiety.
Everyone experiences stressful events throughout their lives; essentially they are unavoidable. At times it can feel as though anxiety is controlling the situation. However, anxiety is a common response to a stressful event and while it may seem as though the anxiety has the power, you can take back the reins and control the anxiety in any of these situations.
Here are five quick tips to reduce anxiety before a stressful event:
1. Acknowledge that it’s okay to be anxious.
This one can be easy and it can also be quite difficult. Often anxiety thoughts stem from the idea that you shouldn’t be anxious, that it’s not okay to feel that way. The problem with this line of thinking is that the more you think this, the worse the anxiety gets. As humans, we all have emotions that we experience across a large spectrum each day. Allow yourself to feel and observe anxiety without judgment or criticism and tell yourself it is okay to feel however you feel. Permission to experience difficult emotions is a crucial step to reduce any anxiety you feel.
2. Wear your “power” outfit!
Everyone has that dress, shirt, pair of pants or other outfit that makes you feel you are in complete control, like a rock start or the president of a Fortune 500 company. Make sure you dress yourself in clothes that make you feel confident, others will pick up on this vibe and treat you that way.
3. Remember, your audience is rooting for you.
When we are anxious, and when we face anxiety before a stressful event, it’s easy to think that others are judging us, though most of the time this isn’t true. Remind yourself that there are many people cheering you on to success! Plus, when we observe others feeling anxious we begin to feel anxious so the audience benefits when they root you on as well!
4. Play the role of a calm person.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” that’s in line with this sentiment. Anxiety often manifests itself in physical symptoms which in turn trigger more anxious thoughts and cause further symptoms of anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. Try to regulate your breathing as this will slow your heart rate and help slow down your symptoms. Also, be aware of anxious tics (foot shaking, nail biting) and try to slow this down. By doing these things we trick the anxious brain into thinking it’s calm which then allows us to feel calmer. Consider looking into meditation practices to help with this as well!
5. Strike a pose!
“High power posing” has been studied by social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. If you stand in a superhero pose for two minutes, research has shown increases in Testosterone (this is the hormone related to confidence) and decreases in Cortisol (this is the hormone related to stress). Right before a stressful event, find a safe space and stand in your best superhero pose for two minutes and feel the stress fly away! Watch Amy’s Cuddy’s TED talk.
Is anxiety a consistent struggle in your life?
Working with a therapist is a great way to learn coping techniques to finally conquer your anxious thoughts and feelings.
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