How to use anxiety to make you more productive

Did you know that anxiety can actually be a useful tool to help you be more productive and enable you to manage stress if you only change a few simple things? This one simple tip can change the way that you approach very difficult situations.

How We Manage Stress

Our brain is designed to look for threats as a survival mechanism.

We’re primed to look for predators’ footprints in the sand, to see smoke as a sign of fire and an obvious example of that is the News. The news is always filled with warnings, dangers and things that press that trigger us to look for the problems or threats to our well-being. It’s rarely filled with positive, lovely stories that maybe they’ll finish the news on that, but it’s always a negative situation because it’s what grabs our attention.

When anxiety takes over, everything can feel like a threat. The more anxiety felt in your system, the more that everything around you can feel like a threat to you. When we experience anxiety, it is often the biggest obstacle for us to take action or achieve results. So, if we can harness and take control of it, it can make us more productive.

How To Use Anxiety To Make You More Productive

We start to avoid those dangerous situations that are going to be a threat to our well-being especially when we manage stress, it impacts innovation, development and opportunity.  It is the greatest risk to change because it keeps us from making the necessary changes for us to evolve, adapt and grow.

The Emotional Response To Anxiety

In psychology, they’ve established that a person’s interpretation of a situation determines the person’s emotional response to it.

If somebody gets a promotion, I can either be really proud of my colleague or I can be jealous and resentful. It’s just how I’m interpreting it that gives an emotional response to it. It’s called Cognitive Reappraisal.

That’s the term that psychologists give to changing the way you think about a situation. It’s simply an emotional regulation strategy, it’s a way of regulating and controlling those emotions in a situation.

If we can change our perception and interpretation of what is going on, we can have a different emotional response. Our body experiences don’t change, but our emotions change, and the research shows this, that is, when we change the way, we think about something. The body doesn’t change, it’s the motions that change around it.

The best example is a rollercoaster ride. If you’ve ever been on a rollercoaster ride, you’ve probably had those sensations of,

              This is heaps of fun! Oh my God, I’m gonna die.

              This is heaps of fun! Oh my God, I’m gonna die.

A great example of how those theme park rides tap into this very thing; the difference between anxiety and excitement. The way our body is experiencing it, the sensations in our body aren’t that different. It’s the way that we’re appraising and interpreting the situation that is different.

There was actually some research and some experimentation that was done by this psychologist where they put people into some situations that would normally create anxiety. I can totally relate to this one because one of the situations was karaoke. I have this innate fear of singing in public, but there are also things like public speaking and other situations.

What they found is that the physical response didn’t change when they put them into those situations, but they gave them tools and things to read and things to say that change their emotional response.

This research found that it’s simply changing the way they process that situation. It changed the outcomes, improved their performance and it enabled them to acquire an opportunity mindset rather than a threat mindset by simply changing the interpretation. A basic tool that you can use is one of the things that they used in this research. When you feel that sensation of anxiety, you say out loud over and over: “I’m excited.”

There’s a threat when you’re saying to yourself, “I’m anxious” and your brain will seek out evidence for this to validate that feeling. We start to internalise those feelings. We might see everything as a threat and we want to protect ourselves.

But when you say, “I’m excited”, the brain can’t help but seek out evidence for why this is true.

How To Use Anxiety To Make You More Productive

It then starts to see opportunities or escape avenues in this situation.

              Why is this true?

              Why are you excited?

It shifts your mind from negative anticipation to a positive one. Rather than predicting the negative things that are going to happen, you anticipate the positive and the opportunity by simply changing that language. It’s an incredibly powerful tool.

Dr. Brock Bastian, is a Social Psychologist from the University of Melbourne.

He did a whole study on this as well, and he found that what is fundamental for us to experience happiness or the full capacity of happiness that’s available in situations is also to feel a little bit of that pain. He demonstrates in his theories and research about how pain is fundamental to the experience of happiness.

It’s when we manage stress, test ourselves, push ourselves and experience those thresholds we can experience happiness so much more.

A Tool To Transform Anxiety

So, this tool is going to make the world of difference for those situations where you’re feeling anxious.  It is simply to say out loud over and over.

              I’m excited.

              I’m excited.

              I’m excited.

Give it a go and see what happens.



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About the Author

Barbara Clifford - The Time Tamer
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships


  • Anticipate the positive and the opportunity in situations.
  • Say “I’m excited” rather than saying, “I’m anxious.”
  • Change the language to a positive statement from a negative one.


  • Fight against the negative threat that your brain seeks out.
  • Predict and interpret the negative in situations.
  • Block your happiness with negative thoughts.
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