transform anxiety into excitement

How to Transform Anxiety into Excitement?

By Natalie Buchwald, LMHC | Last Updated: June 14th, 2023
Reviewed by Steven Buchwald

About one-third of Americans experience an anxiety disorder within their lifetime. The fear and dread of anxiety constrain the lives of millions of Americans. For many, the path to relief lies through therapy and, sometimes, medication.

Anxiety can be put to good use however. This intense energy can be transmuted into excitement.

If you feel this generalized or lingering sense of anxiety that seems unshakable. If you feel this intense feeling of anxiety for no reason, you  can tap into this anxious energy and put it to productive use.

Anxiety is surplus energy that we channel into worry and overthinking. This can feel paralyzing.

Without direction, this anxious energy is chasing its own tale. Anxious for no particular reason; the anxiety will eat you alive with shallow breathing, bringing your mind into overdrive and intensifying negative sensations and feelings.

Anxiety can be redirected towards actions and even excitement.

Redirecting that energy so that it propels you toward creative, productive activities accomplishes two things: It alleviates the anxiety, and it gets us up and doing the things we’re excited to do.

I. Reframing Anxiety Into Excitement Can Improve Performance

Turning anxiety into excitement isn’t as hard as it sounds. This is because both states center on feelings of pent-up energy.

When you’re excited about something, you feel very intensely toward a specific object or goal.

When you’re anxious, you often don’t know where to direct your energy, or you’re trying to steer it away from something you want to avoid. There’s tremendous energy there. If only you could channel it towards a positive outcome.

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With anxiety, you’ll start expending this energy unproductively—ruminating, catastrophizing, or overthinking. In other words, anxiety is excitement without a goal, without action.

One study from Harvard Business School found that actively converting anxious energy into excited energy—that is, sending that pent-up energy in what the mind sees as a positive direction—“primes an opportunity mind-set.”

Subjects who were able to redirect their energy in this way improved their performance in activities ranging from math to karaoke singing.

The key here is to view your anxious energy as an untapped asset. You have a surplus of energy that awaits direction to be put to good use.

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II. Tips for Reframing Anxiety as Excitement

The Harvard Business School study found that subjects who successfully used anxiety to achieve better performance employed several strategies. These included:

A. Just Doing It

If you feel anxiety, overthinking is usually around the corner. Pick an activity and just do it. Any activity will likely make you feel better by virtue of getting out of your head and into your body. Moving your body will help you perceive the high energy as excitement rather than anxiety. Working on a task – particularly one you’ve been avoiding – will channel that sense of anxiety into fuel toward accomplishing this task. More on this below. Instead of getting paralyzed or overcome by anxiety, just do it. Actions will naturally help you reframe anxiety as excitement or flow with your activity.

B. Motivational Self-Talk

Professional athletes, high-performing CEOs, and countless others who face intense anxiety use motivational self-talk to channel anxious energy into action. Self-talk generally means talking to yourself in a reassuring manner (“You’re going to crush this” or “Stop thinking so much and just do it”). The Harvard study shows that positive self-talk “increases intrinsic motivation and improve . . . task performance.”

C.Reminding Yourself that Anxiety and Excitement are Emotional Neighbors

These two emotions are “arousal congruent,” meaning they’re rooted in similar biological states. Reminding yourself that your current anxiety is only a pivot away from excitement can help you make that shift.

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III. There Is No Progress Without Action

Anxiety sometimes seems to come from nowhere. It can take time, reflection, and even discussions with an anxiety therapist to locate the source. At other times, the source is easy to pinpoint.

Whether it’s a difficult conversation you’ve been putting off or a creative venture you’re not making progress on, the only way to quell anxiety is to identify and address the thing that’s causing you stress.

Using strategies that translate anxious energy into productive energy, you can substantively alchemize your anxieties by:

A. Follow the Feeling and Sensation of Anxiety

What does it feel like?

Where does the anxiety reside inside in my body?

Notice your breathing. Is it deep, is it shallow or normal?

Imagine the worst possible outcome of the thing you dread and the pain that would bring.

Then stop: You’ve seen the worst, you’ve felt the pain. Nothing else can happen.

Use the energy that comes with your anxiety to propel you toward the problem instead of away from it. Tell yourself: I will take tangible action to resolve this problem today, and I’m excited to do it.

B. Set Clear Objectives for Each Day, Starting with the Most Difficult

Research from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management shows that people who routinely attack difficult tasks head-on are more productive and stress-tolerant in the long run.

By addressing your biggest challenges early in the day, you may find that the rest of your day is a walk in the park.

C. Address any Lingering Anxiety at the End of the Day with a Soothing Activity

“Do your work, then relax.

The only path to serenity.”

Tao Te Ching

If you complete your personal and professional responsibilities yet still feel anxious in the evening, take intentional steps to help yourself slow down and relax.

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Consider jogging, lifting weights, meditating, or similar activities that will help you slow you down and soothe your nervous system.


You have a well of endless excitement and motivation within you, but sometimes it manifests as anxiety.

Reframing your anxious energy as energizing motivation will allow you to move forward and do the things you need and want to do.