Feeling Anxious? Tell Yourself You’re Excited

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
December 06, 2022

Everyone feels anxious at some point or another—whether before a first date, a big race, an important work presentation, or any number of stressful situations. Although feelings of anxiety often come with a negative connotation, they also have a lot in common with another emotion: excitement.

How Anxious Feelings and Excitement Are Similar

“Anxiety and excitement both involve physiological changes in the body,” says Supatra Tovar, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist based in Pasadena, California. “Both feelings tend to activate our sympathetic nervous system—our fight-or-flight nervous system.” This may come with symptoms such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Clammy hands
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Stomach butterflies
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heightened senses
  • Tense, twitchy muscles
  • Adrenaline rush

The difference between anxiety and excitement may be in the eye of the beholder. “Anxiety is usually associated with a negative perception of the future, and excitement is connected to a positive view of the future,” Tovar says.