Anxiety used to rule every aspect of my life. Now, I’ve replaced anxiety with excitement.
What’s the difference?
Anxiety is, “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.”
In contrast, excitement is, “an excited state or condition.” OK, that definition isn’t very helpful, but I think you understand. You’re smart.
Anxiety comes from fear, while excitement comes from joy + hope.
Anxiety often leads to inactivity, while excitement encourages action.
It’s not surprising that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US. Our brains are literally wired to be negative.
It’s called negativity bias and, when we were living in caves, it helped to ensure we wouldn’t get eaten by something bigger than us (paranoid = alive). Now, anxiety keeps us from pursuing our goals, passions, and everyday activities.
As someone who had anxiety so severe that I couldn’t even leave the house, I say confidently that the only way to reduce your anxiety is to DO something about it.
I’ve become a fan of Mel Robbins’ method of reducing anxiety, which she specifically used to overcome a crippling fear of flying.
Her first step in overcoming anxiety involves creating an “anchor thought” – something that you’re looking forward to. In terms of flying, it would be something you look forward to on the other end of the flight, like seeing family or friends, something you plan to do on vacation, or simply sleeping in your own bed again.
Whenever you start to get anxious and your mind tries to pull you down the negative rabbit hole, you can use your anchor thought to pull yourself back out.
Aside from flying, I’ve found that having an “anchor thought” can be helpful in nearly any situation that gives you anxiety.
In the past two years, I’ve:
- applied to go back to college and didn’t know if I was accepted before I moved halfway across the country (to a city I had never been to)
- rented an apartment and moved to a city that I’d never been to
- got accepted to college (yay) and continued my formal education journey with most students being nearly 15 years younger than me
- began learning a language that I’d never studied before, with the goal of using the language to start a new business and move to another country
If you told me I’d be doing all those things 15 years ago, I’d have a panic attack just reading that list.
Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, I focus on what could go right – and how I can help make that happen.
The change didn’t happen overnight, and my default reaction is still to get anxious.
Now, I quickly shut down that anxiety by focusing on excitement.
Set an anchor thought, come back to it as often as you need to, and track your progress to your goal (small goals lead to big goals!).
Anxiety is restrictive. Excitement is expansive.