Anxiety is a natural response of our central nervous system. It’s meant to be a warning, an alarm going off, telling us to pay attention to something. However, instead of recognizing anxiety as a motivator, people tend to fight against it (a flight response) or avoid it hoping that it will go away (a flight response). This only leads to the anxiety growing and being in control of you instead of you taking control of it. In this blog, we will explore how to use anxiety as a motivator for better performance.
Understanding Anxiety as a Motivator
When we feel anxious, it could also be that we are feeling excited or curious about something. Anxiety is a function of our central nervous system that helps us identify when something important is happening and we need to pay attention. It is an alert to engage more fully. So instead of trying to fight against normal levels of anxiety, we should try to understand it.
Using Anxiety to Our Advantage
Anxiety can be an excellent motivator to help us prepare better for a task or event. Here are some strategies for using anxiety to our advantage:
Recognise That It’s Okay
The first strategy is to recognise that it’s okay to feel anxious. Very often, when we stop and pay attention, we realise that there’s nothing to worry about, and our anxiety goes down. When we stop checking, actually we are up to the task ahead and all will be ok. The warning is: pay attention, rather that we are not capable of meeting the task.
Prepare for the Task at Hand
If we recognise that we’re not prepared for something, the second strategy is to prepare for it. We can make a plan and take action to get ready for the pending task. For instance, if we have a speech to give, we can start preparing by writing down our ideas. Here the warning is: you are able but not ready.
Manage the Situation
If we can’t get prepared, the third strategy is to manage the situation. We can ask for help, change the deadline, or adjust the project’s scope to make it manageable. In this case the warning is: you are not able, but can gather additional resources to make a plan.
Accept the Situation
Finally, if we’re not prepared, and there’s nothing we can do about it, the fourth strategy is to accept the situation. We can cancel the task, admit that we’re not ready, or reschedule the event. In this worse case the warning is: you are not able and need to address the situation radically before it becomes a problem.
Anxiety is a natural response, and can potentially be a helpful resource, that can be used as a motivator for better performance. Instead of a fight or flight response rallying against anxiety or avoiding it until it grows, we should try to understand it and use it to our advantage. By following the strategies mentioned above, we can prepare better for tasks, manage difficult situations, and ultimately improve our performance.