There are many important situations that can increase our anxiety to levels that test our ability to control. These include, for example, a job interview, a public presentation, a test or the first day of a new project. On these occasions, most of us need an extra dose of self-confidence, and we do not always find it.
For some, it is simply an additional strain that they can solve with relative ease. For others, it is a time of instability that is hard to overcome. There are also those who see these episodes of great tension as an experience that borders on trauma. The truth is that hardly anyone can get through these moments before an important event without a little nervousness.
Most people spend more time and energy talking about problems than facing them .”
It is inevitable to feel a certain degree of fear when we have to face an important situation. However, there is a trick , or rather a method, that can help us avoid anxiety. It was created by experts at Harvard University and its effectiveness has been proven.
An experiment to evaluate the control of anxiety
The method was devised by psychologists at the Harvard Business School. It was established from a series of studies on these momentary crises. According to their conclusions, what should be done in these cases is a ritual, that is, a sequence of actions with high symbolic value.
Experts have proven that when a person believes and performs a ritual to overcome anxiety, this usually works very well . To check their hypothesis with real data, they performed an interesting experiment. They wanted a group of people to be very nervous. To do this, they said that in a few minutes they would have to sing a song in front of an audience of listeners.
They noticed that many of the participants had, by themselves, a kind of ritual. Most of them would say aloud: “Calm down!” Or “It’s no big deal,” or even the classic “You Can!”. They did this with the intention of reducing the anxiety they felt. However, these actions did not seem to be very effective.
The researchers selected a group of people to apply a different strategy. They asked participants to draw a picture that showed how they were feeling right now. Then they would have to tear it into several pieces and throw it away. Those who performed this simple exercise were able to control their anxiety better.
Controlling anxiety in difficult times
Psychologists have said that reminding oneself of the obligation to remain calm is not the most appropriate. They said that what we achieve with this strategy is the same thing we often get when we ask that someone outside the world be calmed down. Sometimes what we get is just the opposite: irritate that person even more. So does anxiety itself. You say to yourself “Calm down!” And you get even more nervous, because in addition to anxiety, you still have to deal with the frustration of not getting what you want.
What most generates anxiety in the moments prior to this important event is the anticipation of lack of control . Not knowing what will happen or knowing a way to control all the variables that can produce a negative result. Therefore, an automated ritual, such as that proposed in the study, helps us to eliminate this sense of lack of control over what is to come. In addition, if the sequence of actions has a special meaning for us, it will be even more effective.
In conclusion, creating and performing a ritual before facing a stressful situation reduces anxiety. For it to be considered a ritual, it must always be performed in the same way. Usually singers simply warm their throats before a performance. Soccer players touch the lawn, make the sign of the cross or enter the field doing some specific movement. Some TV presenters sip on tea or even sleep for five minutes before facing a live show.
Let’s list some examples of effective rituals. Doing a series of breathing exercises while retrieving from our memory symbolic moments of our ability, or taking with us and looking at photographs of people who can inspire us, may even be a picture of ourselves at a different stage of our life.
If it is a photo of our own, it is best that it reminds us of a moment similar to what we are going to experience. We also had a tricky challenge, about which we did not have all control, and yet it was enough to get past it.
It’s also worth writing down our biggest fear on paper, chewing it up and then spitting it out. None of this has anything to do with magic or spells. These kinds of rituals are simply directed at conscious and unconscious forces. In any case, it is best that you believe in your own symbolic ritual. As absurd as it may seem, it is a great brake on anxiety and the negative thoughts that feed it.