We’ve been able to outlast those guys, but evolutionary psychologists will tell you that we’re still on constant lookout for the thing that wants to eat us next.
The trouble is, the audience at your next presentation is not, in fact, a bunch of razor-toothed animals. They generally want to see you do well.
Since being plagued by anxiety is a sure way to sabotage your own success, we’ve put together a collection of research-backed tips for overcoming your chronic fears and daily stressors.
Kim Bhasin contributed research to this article.
Breathe deeply because it lets your nervous system know that it can chill out.
You’ve probably heard that breathing is a good call if you’re stressed out. But what’s fascinating is the reason why it works so well.
“Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because it activates the body’s relaxation response,” explains Psych Central editor Margarita Tartakovsky.
As psychologist Marla W. Deibler told Psych Central, “It helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system.”
Slowly expose yourself to the things you’re afraid of, so they’re no longer unfamiliar to you.
If you’re trying to get comfortable with negotiating, speaking in public, or other scary activities, psychologists often recommend exposure therapy.
Rehab Institute of Chicago neuroscientist Katherina Hauner has found that it can dramatically improve the way people relate to their fears.
“It is usually done in a series of hierarchical steps, starting with a relatively low level of engagement with the feared situation, and increasing the level with each step,” she told The Huffington Post.
“For exposure therapy with a dog phobia,” she says, “we might start with just looking at a very small puppy from many feet away, and eventually work our way up to petting a very large dog.”
Recognize when you’re succumbing to “misplaced” anxiety and let it go.
As Wharton research scholar Jeremy Yip has found, fear about one thing in your life has a way of spilling over into other parts of your life.
If you have car trouble on your way to work, there’s a good chance that feeling of anxiety will carry over into your workday.
You might feel less confident about pitching your boss on a new project because when you ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” your general feelings of anxiety make you more risk-averse.
To deal with that, try and recognize where the fear is coming from. If you’re worried because you need to make improvements, listen to that. If you’re worried because your exhaust is making funny noises, recognize that those worries don’t have anything to do with the pitch.