Communication essentials: optimal anxiety

Is there such a thing as ‘good’ anxiety?

Experts believe there is. The Yerkes-Dodson law, to be exact. An anxiety sweet spot, if you will. I first heard of it during a Calm* meditation session (shoutout to Tamara Levitt).

I wrote about my own journey with anxiety in a previous blog (“wellness and me”, August 11, 2021), mainly about what happens when you continue to ignore ‘bad’ anxiety by simply telling yourself this is ‘normal.’

So, the idea of a different side to that theory – i.e., good anxiety – is so intriguing. The (quick) research I did on it describes it as that sweet spot where athletes like to be before a game, or politicians before a big speech. The main thing I noticed – games, speeches – is that it is temporary. The anxiety you feel is meant to act as an enhancer, not because it throws you out of balance but because it helps you establish balance. (“Let’s do this!”)

‘Bad’ anxiety, as so many of us have felt over the past two years, doesn’t feel temporary. It feels like ‘oh great … what do I need to worry about now?’ Even when there isn’t anything to worry about.

As someone who rode that wave of ‘good’ anxiety and tried to stay in that zone, I can tell you, it simply starts with realizing that a lack of awareness with any anxiety is when things can get challenging. Thinking high anxiety = high performance (it doesn’t … science says so) has a shelf life and ultimately affects those you are trying to help and support the most.

Having the awareness to realize you are in that sweet spot? You can turn the dial up. Nail that presentation. Deliver in the big moment. Having the awareness to realize that sweet spot has turned into a bitter constant is the first step toward getting help. Either way, you can’t ignore anxiety.

Why am I writing about this here? Why am I making it this week’s ‘communication essential’? Because it applies to all aspects of leadership. All aspects of humanity – touches every relationship you have. But as you start to care for yourself in this area, you are also becoming more aware of it in others, putting you in a position to lead by example. Which in today’s environment, may be the best way to lead.

*I’ve mentioned Calm before. If you’re interested in a trial let me know, and I’ll send you a link to try it for free.