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Do you ever feel butterflies in the pit of your stomach? Or maybe you experience increased adrenalin, heart rate or sweating?

Well, you might be confusing anxiety with excitement, according to experts.

I was skeptical when I first heard about this.

I suffer from severe anxiety, and the thought that I could turn that debilitating feeling into excitement made me roll my eyes. So, prozac 5 htp interaction I decided to speak to some experts to see if it is possible.

‘The physical responses we have to anxiety and excitement are very similar,’ explains psychotherapist Hayley McAuley from Curious Counselling.

She says the difference between the two is how we interpret those responses and consciously frame them. 

‘Due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, it’s entirely possible to reframe anxiety as excitement and create a new neural pathway and therefore a new response to a situation that ordinarily induces an anxious response,’ Hayley adds.

What hormones link to anxiety and excitement?

Many of the same hormones are indicated in both anxiety and excitement.

The ‘stress’ hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are released when we are anxious, and the ‘happy’ hormones of dopamine and oxytocin are released when we are excited, explains Hayley.

‘However, due to the physiological symptoms of anxiety and excitement being extremely similar (for example, increased heart rate, butterflies in the stomach, sweating), it can be difficult to tell what we are experiencing,’ she says.

Essentially, excitement is the anticipation of pleasure, while anxiety is the anticipation of pain.

How can we turn anxiety into excitement?

‘Stress responses or anxiety elevates the heart rate, sharpens cognitive function, and helps narrow our focus,’ says Laura Rowe, founder of Align Lifestyle and wellness and empowerment coach.

This can be positive in the short-term to help with performance. It is useful when working to a deadline, giving a presentation in front of a crowd, making life-saving decisions, or removing ourselves from dangerous situations.

‘This feeling is the body’s way of helping us perform at our best. It’s keeping us alert and clear to focus on our goals,’ Laura explains.

However, it is how we interpret the sensations we experience in our body that will influence how we respond to them, explains Sarah Fletcher.

‘The mind and body are in constant communication with each other,’ says Sarah.

‘When a sensation is experienced in the body, the head brain puts meaning to it to make sense of the sensation. We create a story about the sensation often out of conscious awareness, which can be helpful or unhelpful to our wellbeing.

‘Many of us have become disconnected from our bodies and are overly reliant on head-based information even though this information might not be based on facts.’

Turning anxiety into excitement involves reframing our thoughts, as opposed to ignoring or resisting thoughts surrounding anxiety, as well as choosing how to perceive the sensations in our body.

‘Anxiety is associated with negativity, a sense of fear, failure, or concern for things going wrong,’ says Hayley.

‘Excitement is a positive experience, so by reframing our thoughts, we can create a positive response to the physiological symptoms and therefore experience the feeling differently.’

How to turn anxiety into excitement

Here are Hayley’s top tips:

  • Tell yourself you are excited for the opportunities the situation will bring instead of being fearful of the threat you perceive.
  • Look at what can be gained from the situation – there will always be a gain from any experience, and we can reframe that as a lesson.
  • Focus on the positive outcomes of the situation and tell yourself you are excited about these.
  • Accept the feelings in the body, listen to them but tell yourself they are there because you are excited.
  • Engage your conscious brain by thinking out loud. Analyse the situation by doing the things mentioned above in order to minimise the overwhelming effects of the emotional brain. This doesn’t ignore the emotional response, but it quietens it enough to allow you to focus on the positive aspects of the situation.

Does this work for extreme anxiety or generalised anxiety disorder?

This does not apply to individuals dealing with ongoing anxiety, experts warn. This is simply about understanding the sense of anticipation we feel.

‘Extreme anxiety can be crippling and completely overwhelming, and to employ the tips above would be difficult,’ Hayley explains.

‘The body goes into a heightened state of arousal and remains there for a long time accompanied by ingrained negative automatic thoughts. In this instance, I would recommend some professional help and support in order to assist you in regulating your nervous system.  

‘Methods that I use personally with clients involve psychoeducation about the vagus nerve and its role within our bodies and also Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT) which is highly effective in working with generalised anxiety disorder.’

Is it ever beneficial to focus on anxiety?

‘It is beneficial to respect the anxiety and listen to what it tells us,’ Hayley explains.

However, she warns that remaining focused on it would create a loop system and perpetuate the anxiety.

To recognise anxiety and understand what it is trying to tell us is an important part of taking control of it, according to Hayley. 

Anxiety is not always a negative. 

There are times when our anxiety alerts us to danger or risk. Therefore, before deciding whether to try to reframe our anxiety, take a step back and make sure it isn’t trying to tell you something. 

‘Anxiety is fear driven and is generated from our instinctual need to survive. Therefore, anxiety starts to kick in whenever we perceive a situation as a threat.  

‘By allowing ourselves to recognise that we are fearful and ask ourselves why we can then start to assess the situation and determine if there is an actual threat.  

If there is not, we can reframe it using the techniques above. If there is a threat, then the anxiety and fear response is vital in order to keep us safe.’

Can it be dangerous to ignore or suppress anxiety?

Ignoring or reframing anxiety can be dangerous at times.

‘Storing anxiety in the body by ignoring or suppressing it can cause physical as well as psychological health problems,’ warns Hayley.  

‘Turning anxiety into excitement is not ignoring or suppressing because it allows the physiological symptoms to remain and be used effectively.  

‘However, when you completely ignore and avoid processing the physiological symptoms of anxiety, our health can become affected. 

‘It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems as well as low self-esteem, memory issues, depression, and insomnia.’

Anxiety is a necessary part of life, but it does not have to take over and control us. It is there as a tool to keep us safe.

Hayley says: ‘The key is to recognise it for what it is, accept the physiological symptoms, assess the situation and providing there is no real threat, employ the techniques to turn the feelings into excitement.’

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