Ask Dr. Annie K: Transitions From Nervous to Excited

I’m about to go through a big change in my life and I’m feeling extremely emotional.
How does one transition themselves from feeling nervous to feeling excited?

Anonymous Reader

Love+Medicine

Really good question. Dealing with transition is universally difficult, no matter how positive you believe the transition will be. As David Foster Wallace once said, “everything I have ever let go of has claw marks on it”.

It’s hard to make a change. Inertia is so much easier (yet so much less enriching). It’s hard to step out of your comfort zone. You may feel isolated and alone.

You ask how to turn nervousness into excitement. Actually, in the brain, these two emotions are physiologically nearly identical. They both involve a cortisol surge, an increase in adrenaline. These same neurotransmitters are activated in both states. So why does it feel so different? Why does one feel awful while the other feels great?

This is where the mind/body connection comes in. Our bodies are undergoing the same process but our minds are labeling one as negative and the other positive. Nervous excitement, a combo of the two would be optimal. Instead, we see things as black and white and think- “my heart is pounding, I have diarrhea, I don’t think I can do this!” Just as easily our minds could interpret these feelings as normal- “my heart is pounding, I have diarrhea, I can’t wait to start my new life!”

How can we turn this around? It’s comforting for some people just to know that a certain degree of anxiety is normal and shows you are a sensitive human being. That’s a good thing! Too much though, can be uncomfortable.

Here is some advice I have given to patients that they have found helpful:

  • Talk to someone. Ideally someone who has been through a similar experience. It can be a parent, a close friend, a therapist. People are ready to help and showing vulnerability is not a weakness! It’s what makes us human and lovable.
  • Take it one half day at a time. Otherwise you get overwhelmed. Focus on the morning, don’t think about the afternoon.
  • Don’t base your fear on negative reactions you had in the past to the same situation. You are a constantly evolving person, it doesn’t need to happen again.
  • Channel the adrenaline into something productive, like a swim or a run or an art project.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. You are doing the best you can.
  • Take alone time for yourself to regroup, meditate, relax.
  • Be kind to yourself. Seek out positive people and experiences. See this as a fresh new start where people can view you not as your old self but as a strong, courageous person doing something not too many people would be able to do.
  • See yourself as a warrior, not a worrier! You become your thoughts!

Let me know how things work out for you, dear reader. I’m here 24/7

Dr. Annie K

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3 comments

  1. This post comes just in time. I am working on new things in life and work and feel more anxious than excited. I am going to try some of your suggestions. Thanks Dr. Anne!!

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