Some Simple Ways to Turn Anxiety Into Excitement

A few years ago, when I expressed worry about an upcoming speaking engagement, my therapist drew a little diagram for me. In one corner, she wrote the word “anxiety.” In another, she wrote “excitement.” Then she drew two lines, connecting them to the same little dot in the middle, to illustrate that both of these emotions come from the same starting place—it’s how you respond that informs which feeling you experience.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily true if you have an actual anxiety disorder, and some anxiety can’t be turned into excitement because it’s a very real signal your body is telling you that you might be in danger.
However, there really are a ton of opportunities to turn a negative feeling or thought into a positive one, and turn those jitters into jazz(ed) hands. Here’s why that’s true—and how to accomplish it for yourself.


Both excitement and anxiety involve the same chemical process in the brain.
What separates these two arousal emotions are the associations we make with them, says Sal Raichbach, Psy.D., LCSW, of Ambrosia Treatment Center.
When you experience anxiety, the first thing that happens is your senses observe your environment, and you feel that rush of cortisol in your brain as the fight-or-flight mentality begins to set in. This is something humans have evolved to do to be able to sense danger and respond quickly, which is why it all happens in a matter of seconds, Raisbach says.
But a part of this response is also your ability to recall your previous experience, and that’s where the anxiety or excitement will start to differentiate, Raisbach says. If you’ve been anxious in past while public speaking, chances are that you are going to be anxious when you are walking up to that podium again. The difference between healthy anxiety and unhealthy anxiety is your relationship with this stimulus—and whether or not it’s making you feel fear.
Distinguish between good and bad anxiety.
So if you see a car about to hit you, you should be feeling fear and anxiety. A more complex example, Raichbach says, is the type of unhealthy anxiety that comes up when you aren’t in any specific danger, but your body triggers that response anyway.
“Unhealthy” anxiety could be a fear of meeting new people or feeling trapped in a large crowd. But since you’re not really in danger in these situations, it isn’t risky or unsafe to try and turn that fear into excitement.
Recent research has found that if we reappraise anxiety as excitement, we will actually perform better—no matter the task.
A.J. Marsden, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Beacon College, points out that there are three different components of every emotion: how our bodies react to it, how we express it, and how we experience it. We then label these feelings good or bad.
Sometimes, she says, it’s all relative—an Olympic athlete might more easily experience the starting gun as excitement, since an adrenaline rush is coming, and there’s a potential reward at

This article was originally published here by Helaina Hovitz