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When Anxiety Is Good for Performance

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Summary: How can you turn the anxiety you feel into better performance? Find out in this article.
 
Channel your anxiety about a project into your work and then take a breath and move on.

Most people experience anxiety in one form or another, whether you suffer from it every day or you only deal with it when big things are coming up in your life like a looming work project, meeting your significant other’s parents, waiting for big news, or working to get into a school or program. While some forms of anxiety can be debilitating, the anxiety we’re discussing today is the kind that comes up only every once in a while. This type of anxiety can actually be incredibly helpful, as long as you know how to use it to your advantage.


 
We’ve all seen from movies, TV or our own lives and experiences that some people cave under pressure and some people excel. Movies tend to give more obvious examples, such as James Bond. When a situation involves high pressure and might send others into a paralyzing anxiety attack, James Bond’s senses go on high alert and his mind is working clearly and at peak performance. But how do we make that happen for ourselves when difficult situations arise?
 
How our brains perform in these kinds of situations actually connects to how we’re feeling. You might think that James Bond is an emotionless robot. He puts emotions aside and focuses on the task ahead. Actually, our emotions are a critical part of human functioning. While positivity is great, it’s the negative emotions that drive us to perform our best and focus clearly.
 
Positive emotions occur when we’re feeling safe in our world, whether that’s physically, socially, or in regard to our self-image. Negative emotions, such as anxiety, come up when there is something unknown in our environment and when we’re not sure what’s going to happen. Anxiety is particularly helpful because it can help us focus on the issue at hand rather than being distracted by other things. This focus is what allows people to get the job done and get it done efficiently. Without anxiety, we would rarely work so hard or be focused on anything because we would already feel good about where we are and our brain’s performance system wouldn’t be activated in the same way.
 
The biggest takeaways from this knowledge are to not shy away from anxiety, but to also keep your negative emotions in check. While they are helpful when it comes to performance, they can be detrimental if you’re experiencing them far too much. Excessive anxiety can cause a lot of stress, which takes a mental and physical toll. Channel your anxiety about a project into your work and then take a breath and move on.

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