Perception is powerful. The way we perceive a situation can impact our emotions, words, and physiological responses. A roller coaster can either be thrilling or terrifying, depending on the way we think about it. We often believe that perceptions cannot be changed, as they feel so deeply engrained within us. However, we can change our perceptions and turn fear into excitement. In doing so, we can try new things, learn new skills, and achieve our goals.
Fear vs. Excitement – What’s the Difference?
While we tend to believe that fear is a negative emotion, it has its purpose. If we had no fear whatsoever, we would cease avoiding dangerous situations that may harm us. There’s a reason our hearts pound and our adrenaline spikes when there’s a break-in at home. It prepares us to react in a way that will help us survive and overcome adversity.
However, excessive fear is not beneficial to anyone. We should not be getting panic attacks when we are stuck in a traffic jam or when we lose our keys. While these circumstances are certainly irritating, they are not life-threatening. What we fail to realize is that our response to a challenging situation is mostly due to us. We cannot control stresses, as life is not perfect. But we can control our responses to them, with discipline and a set of skills.
On the other hand, excitement is defined as a “great feeling of enthusiasm and eagerness to see or do something”. We may feel exhilarated or elated in anticipation of an event. Strangely enough, we may have a similar physiological response as we do when we are afraid. Adrenaline spikes, our heart beats a little faster, and our mind races a bit. However, our brain does not perceive excitement in a negative way; but in a pleasurable way. One psychologist claims that excitement is like a “good form of stress, often referred to as ‘eustress’. Our pulse quickens and our emotions surge, but there is no threat or fear involved.”
Tips to Turn Fear into Excitement
While some situations are never thrilling (i.e. losing our keys or getting stuck in a traffic jam), there are certain times in which it is appropriate to turn fear into excitement. A new job, a potential interview, a social gathering, or activities like parasailing are all circumstances that we choose to be afraid of or to get excited about. To view challenges as opportunities rather than terrifying endeavors, consider these tips -
· Change Self-Dialogue – So much of our perceptions are based on how we talk to ourselves. Rather than saying, “I’m too scared to ask for a raise,” say, “Maybe if I ask for this raise, I’ll get it. And if I do, we can finally afford to go on vacation this year.” It may feel silly or unusual at first, but after a while, you will start believing what you tell yourself. The mind-body connection is so powerful, that your physiological response will also change.
· Do It Anyway – The best way to get over fear is to do what you need to do anyway. If you have a social event that you feel nervous about, don’t let the fear prevent you from going. Instead, use the positive self-dialogue a few days in advance and then make yourself go. Create an exit plan to feel like you have an out, just in case. You’ll find that these events are not as scary once you get there.
· Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – A lot of fear is due to feeling unprepared. If your anxiety is about a job interview, then prepare adequately for the job interview. Know exactly what to wear, what you’re going to say, and even practice with a friend if you want. When you feel prepared, you will lessen the anxiety and increase the excitement. You’ll know that you can ace the interview because you are capable and ready.
· Be Realistic – If you are afraid of airplanes, research airplane safety standards and even the low crash statistics (though this may make the anxiety worse). You’ll find that they are incredibly low. Recognize that your fear is not based on reality. Arm yourself with these statistics and repeat them to yourself when you start to feel nervous.
· Think About the End Goal – What’s your end goal? Do you want to get a raise, get a better job, visit a parent across the country, or have a fun time with your child at an amusement park? Picture yourself happily completing a scary situation and how proud you will feel of yourself. Think about how much better life will be for you once you’ve overcome your fear. This can help you get excited about healthy risk-taking.
· Find the Root Cause – There is typically a root cause to your fear. For example, fear of a social gathering may be due to that one time you forgot what you were going to say in middle school and everyone laughed at you. Recognize that past experiences do not dictate future experiences.
· Start Slow – You don’t need to go sky diving tomorrow. In fact, you don’t need to go skydiving at all. Think about some reasonable things you really want to do that you were too afraid to do. Make a list. Choose the easiest one first and then move on to the rest over time.
· Talk to Someone – If you still struggle with anxiety or depression, contact a therapist. He/she can help you turn your fears into excitement and support you on your journey towards wellness.
Do you always feel fear rather than excitement? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org One of our staff members would be happy to set up an appointment for you.