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Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement

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Individuals often feel anxious in anticipation of tasks such as speaking in public or meeting with a boss. I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety. However, across several studies involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance, I investigate an alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. Compared with those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying "I am excited" out loud) or simple messages (e.g., "get excited"), which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mind-set (as opposed to a threat mind-set), and improve their subsequent performance. These findings suggest the importance of arousal congruency during the emotional reappraisal process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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... Excitement is usually coded as positive in various ways, including in terms of physiology, valence, and desirability (Machizawa et al., 2020). However, it can also be read, to an extent, as an "ambivalent" or "mixed" emotion, since it can include affective dimensions or elements that may be more negatively coded, such as fear or anxiety (Brooks, 2014). People may be drawn towards risk-taking activities, for instance, because they find these exciting, but inherent in that experience is a certain degree of danger, which is precisely what helps make it exciting. ...
... This might be interpreted as individuals reappraising their anxious arousal as excitement and consequently increasing their confidence and improving their performance (Stanger et al., 2018). Through self-statements, such as "I am excited" rather than "trying to relax or stay calm, " cognitive reappraisal promotes a more positive way of thinking and elicits a stronger feeling of excitement, which in turn indirectly affects sports performance (Brooks, 2014). In summary, athletes, at least archers, should understand that using cognitive reappraisal in the field tends to reduce competitive performance by taking up cognitive resources and distracting attention, but when it is applied in a way that enhances confidence (e.g., "the current situation is a challenge for me, and I believe I can handle it"), it may promote competitive performance. ...
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... Fear diminishes, whereas excitement enhances performance. Brooks (2014) reported that individuals who deliberately reappraise their anxiety into excitement can elicit the positive performance associated with excitement. ...
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