Everybody has experienced the anxiety that sets in before an interview, a big test, or an audition. This is the kind of stress that can sabotage even the most prepared individual’s performance. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to control the physical symptoms of anxiety and stage fright. However, it is possible to change the way your body interprets them, and this could be the key to overcoming pre-performance butterflies once and for all.


According to a study from the Harvard Business School, individuals were able to perform stress-inducing tasks better when they altered their perceptions of fear and anxiety. Instead, they attempted to interpret their fear as signs of excitement.


Participants in the study were asked to either try to calm down before a task or to try to get excited before the task. Another group of participants were given no instructions one way or the other. Participants were then examined as they performed several different tasks, including singing in front of an audience, completing a timed math test, and speaking in public.


It can be nerve-wrecking to go out of your comfort zone, perform in front of crowds, or complete a difficult task. Rebranding that anxiety as excitement could be the key to stronger performance (femgineer.com)

It can be nerve-wrecking to go out of your comfort zone. Rebranding that anxiety as excitement could be the key to stronger performance (femgineer.com)

When performing each of the above activities, those individuals who were told to get excited before a task performed consistently better than any of the other participants in the study.


The study verified an interesting notion: when an individual tries to calm down, it actually ends up leading to more over-thinking and a higher level of anxiety and potential for failure. On the other hand, trying to get excited before a major event can successfully serve to minimize stress and encourage smoother sailing through said task.


In a sense, this little trick can be seen as a kind of “rebranding” of fear. Whether you are getting excited or getting nervous, the symptoms are generally the same. You’ll find your mind racing and your heart starting to pound faster in your chest. For most of us, those symptoms are all too easily interpreted as anxiety, especially before a task that is outside of our comfort zones.


However, all it takes is a little rebranding to change your attitude. You don’t need to change your body’s physical response to high stress situations in order to change its emotional response. Simply take the physical symptoms and change the way your body interprets them. Rather than giving into anxiety or accepting that you are nervous and trying to calm down, tell yourself you are excited. Rebrand those symptoms to change what they mean to your body, and let your excitement take care of the rest.


What are your tricks for overcoming nerves before a big task? Share them with us below or tweet me @tamarahoumi