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Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement
Alison Wood Brooks

Individuals often feel anxious in anticipation of tasks such as speaking in public or meeting with a boss. I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety. However, across several studies involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance, I investigate an alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. Compared with those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement…

Turning the Knots in Your Stomach into Bows:
Reappraising Arousal Improves Performance on the GRE
Jamieson, Jeremy P, et al

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46(1): 208-212.

 

This research examined the benefits of interpreting physiological arousal as a challenge response on practice and actual Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores…

Arousal and Physiological Toughness: Implications
for Mental and Physical Health
Richard A. Dienstbier

From W. B. Cannon’s identification of adrenaline with “fight or flight” to modern views of stress, negative views of peripheral physiological arousal predominate. Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) arousal is associated with anxiety, neuroticism, the Type A personality, cardiovascular disease, and immune system suppression; illness susceptibility is associated with life events requiring adjustments. “Stress control” has become almost synonymous with arousal reduction. A contrary positive view of peripheral arousal follows from studies of subjects exposed to intermittent stressors.

Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response
Alia Crum, Peter Salovey, Shawn Achor

This article describes 3 studies that explore the role of mindsets in the context of stress. In Study 1, we present data supporting the reliability and validity of an 8-item instrument, the Stress Mindset Measure (SMM), designed to assess the extent to which an individual believes that the effects of stress are either enhancing or debilitating. In Study 2, we demonstrate that stress mindsets can be altered by watching short, multimedia film clips presenting factual information biased toward defining the nature of stress in 1 of 2 ways (stress-is-enhancing vs. stress-is-debilitating). In Study 3, we demonstrate the effect of stress mindset on physiological and behavioral outcomes, showing that a stress-is-enhancing mindset is associated with moderate cortisol reactivity and high desire for feedback under stress. Together, these 3 studies suggest that stress mindset is a distinct and meaningful variable in determining the stress response.

Positive Intelligence
Shawn Achor

In July 2010 Burt’s Bees, a personal-care products company, was undergoing enormous change as it began a global expansion into 19 new countries. In this kind of high-pressure situation, many leaders pester their deputies with frequent meetings or flood their in-boxes with urgent demands.

 

In doing so, managers jack up everyone’s anxiety level, which activates the portion of the brain that processes threats—the amygdala—and steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for effective problem solving.

 

Burt’s Bees’s then-CEO, John Replogle, took a different tack…

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