Navigating Nerves

I packed up my work bag the night before and was feeling prepared. But on the way to the meeting, I could detect a different nagging feeling that would not go away.

I was feeling anxious.

As I sat in that feeling of anxiousness, I noticed my thoughts traveling down a path of self-doubt. 

What if things don’t go the way I want?
What if I get tongue-tied?
What if they say no?
What if the whole thing gets derailed?
What if….

STOP. I told myself.

It occurred to me that I was running on auto-pilot and letting the feeling of anxiousness turn into a “what if” game that I was going to lose. So I pushed pause, took a deep breath, and remembered to do three things.

Recognizing and acknowledging your feelings is the first step in gaining control over them. If you name it, you can tame it.

So, yes I was feeling anxious. In fact, I was feeling a bunch of things including scared, intrigued, curious, uncomfortable, and insecure.

As I took a moment to name how I was feeling, I could feel my heart beat go from pounding to a little more controlled.

I then considered what those feelings were telling me. Just like a spreadsheet of data, my feelings were telling me something. 

As I considered their value and messages, I was reminded that this particular meeting was really important to me. I wanted to be my best. I knew I needed to listen well and lean into all the training and experience I was bringing along with me. As I processed that, I recognized my thoughts were calming down and my “what if” game was changing. 

Now that I had a game plan, I knew I needed to transform my anxiousness to move me forward versus hold me back. My anxiousness actually led me to take the steps to be prepared. I transformed that feeling for something good and I was prepared to give it my best shot.  


There’s actually something very interesting about feeling anxious and feeling excited. Allison Wood, a professor at Harvard Business School conducted an interesting STUDY. Her research was specifically about feeling anxious. 

Wood suggests that once you are feeling anxious, you can “trick” your brain. When you rename Anxious to Excited, you actually transform the feeling and develop an opportunity mindset versus a mindset that seeks to protect

Sounds simple enough, right? Simon Sinek talks about something very similar. Watch this short clip.

Back to my story…

As I drove to my meeting I decided to try it! I moved from saying, “I feel anxious,” to “I feel excited!” Yes, I said it out loud. In my car. By myself. At first, it made me laugh – which is already better than sweating from feeling anxious- but then I noticed something else.

I sat in this re-named feeling of excitement, and I:

Recognizing feelings and emotions gives you important information. Naming and re-naming is a strategy to help you navigate the emotion to the best possible outcome.

When you catch yourself feeling anxious, try practicing these steps.

Start by validating and exploring the feeling of anxiousness. What is this feeling revealing to you about the situation?

Identify what makes the situation exciting and say out loud, “I am feeling excited.”

Change the narrative in your mind and focus on the possible opportunity.

Make a commitment to yourself to practice this new perspective over the next six months and notice what changes.

Share your experience with someone else. 

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