Pre-presentation butterflies might make you want to heave… but that might actually be a good thing, if you think about them the right way. Reframing stress as something positive can help boost your performance, according to a new study published in Clinical Psychological Science.
Researchers asked 69 participants to deliver five-minute presentations on their strengths and weaknesses. Before the speeches, the scientists lectured half of the participants on the advantages of stress. They encouraged the participants to think of symptoms like sweaty palms as an evolutionary advantage that helps deliver oxygen to the body parts that need it. Throughout the speeches, administrators shook their heads and scowled at each presenter’s performance—regardless of how they were doing.
After, researchers distributed anxiety questionnaires and assessed each participant’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, and blood resistance—all measures of stress. Those who’d been prepped on the benefits of stress reported feeling more prepared to face the task at hand. Plus, their hearts pumped more blood with less resistance.
“Simply changing your mindset about what stress is can improve your stress response,” says lead author Jeremy Jamieson, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Rochester. If you think you have the resources to cope with a demanding situation, your body will see it as a challenge instead of a threat. This triggers the release of hormones that tell your heart to pump more blood to your body and brain, where it can help boost your performance, he says.
So how do you change your mindset? You can start by bookmarking this page! Just before you face a stressful situation–like a race, date, or interview–re-read it to reinforce that stress is good and can help you do better, not worse. Then, bring it!