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ARTICLE: How To Face An Anxiety-Provoking Situation Like A Champion

Every tough challenge provides an opportunity to build more mental muscle. And each step you take toward becoming mentally stronger is one step toward reaching your greatest potential. Amy Morin, psychotherapist and bestselling author, explains on how to stay mentally strong when faced with an anxiety-provoking situation:

  1. Take a Couple of Deep Breaths Anxiety is not all in your mind—it's also waging a war with your body, producing a variety of physical symptoms like sweaty palms and a rapid heartbeat. These physiological signs of anxiety can fuel anxious thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, you can calm your body when you begin to experience this fight-or-flight response with a couple of slow, deep breaths. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Inflate your abdomen as well as your chest. Hold it in for a count of 3. Then, slowly exhale through pursed lips, while relaxing your shoulders and face. Repeat this several times.

  2. Give Yourself a Pep Talk Anxious feelings lead to anxious thoughts, so when you feel afraid, you may convince yourself you’re going to fail or that you should give up, increasing anxiety and leading to a vicious downward spiral that’s hard to break. Break this cycle by giving yourself a quick pep talk: Ask yourself, “What would I say to a trusted friend who was in this situation?” Then, give yourself that same advice. Words of encouragement to yourself can give a quick boost in mental strength and help you enter the situation with a champion-like mindset.

  3. Focus on Things Within Your Control Don’t waste valuable energy on things you can’t control. Stay focused on yourself. You can control who you introduce yourself to at a networking event, but you can’t control whether they follow up with you. You can control the delivery of your speech, but you can’t control how receptive the audience is. Remind yourself that you are only responsible for what you do and you can’t control how other people think, feel, or behave.

  4. Create an If...Then Plan Imagination fuels anxiety. All too often we imagine the worst-case scenario. Catastrophic thoughts can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. As you worry about stumbling on your words, you might grow distracted and forget what you were saying. Or, as you focus too much on whether people like you, you might not engage in authentic, meaningful conversations. Create an if...then plan: establish how you’ll respond if the problem you’re worrying about actually happens. If I get nervous during my speech, then I’ll take a few deep breaths and look at my notes. If I can’t think of anything interesting to say, then I’ll ask about where they grew up. This will free up your mind to focus on more important things.

  5. Embrace the Anxiety Trying too hard to fight anxiety can be a waste of energy. It’s not productive and drains needed mental strength to tell yourself things like “My anxiety must mean I’m not good enough for this” or “I can't handle feeling anxious.” Instead, concentrate your efforts on building courage, and remind yourself that anxious feelings are proof that you are doing something challenging and important.

  6. Congratulate Yourself Regardless of whether you delivered your speech perfectly or you nailed every nerve-racking interview question perfectly, congratulate yourself for facing your fears. Tackling anxiety-provoking situations head-on gets easier with practice, and it also helps sharpen your skills.

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