Some days can flow with revision going well, as your child feels excited (ish!) by what they’re learning and can feel the breakthroughs they’re making. Others, they’re drowning in self-doubt and hidden fears, lashing out and about as cuddly as a Texan cactus. But what if the difference between fear and excitement – or exam stress and exam confidence – were something your child could learn to control?
Back in 2003, when I was studying to become an NLP Trainer, I discovered a little-known secret about my fears. I still remember how I reacted to first hearing it, too. So I invite you to bear with me on this one, before you pick up those rotten tomatoes to lob my way 😉
The difference between fear and excitement is about 2 inches.
OK, for some people it can be 5 inches, but the idea is the same.
What on earth am I talking about?
When we’re stuck in our mind-stories, diving into the drama of our fear of failure or worries about being overwhelmed by our ‘to do’ list, it’s easy to get stuck on that thought-train and fear we’ll never escape.
But your body holds the answers.
Your body feels every thought you think. And if you can’t think you way out of a problem, it offers solutions.
We feel every emotion at a point in our body.
For most of us, we experience the physical sensation of fear and nervousness in the stomach area. Our language describes it as the ‘pit of my stomach’ or having a ‘gut instinct’ about something.
And for most of us, excitement is pretty close by. We describe it as butterflies in our stomach. Many of us experience fear – and excitement – as affecting our digestive system. Since emotions are chemical reactions in our body, they are inextricably linked with our physical experience.
From a physical location perspective, the difference between fear and the location of excitement is about 2-5 inches. Often (but not for everyone), fear is about 2 inches lower than excitement.
Please bear in mind that I’m talking about the kind of mind-story fear we feel when we have a big project or challenge or change to work on – the type that stops us from doing what we really want to do or say – rather than the ‘Watch out – there’s a sabre-toothed tiger over there and he’s looking hungry’ variety.
The great news is:
While your Monkey Mind is telling stories of ‘scared’ and ‘anxious’, you can shift the emotion to ‘anticipation’ and even ‘excitement’ by working with the body.
Teaching your child that they can use their body – the physical location of the emotion and their posture – to release fear and move into feeling confident can make a huge difference.
When we’re stuck in fear, your brain isn’t interested in historical dates or proving mathematical formulae; it wants to decide whether to run, fight or find the nearest tall tree. So if your child is stressed and scared about their exams, they’re going to struggle with revising.
If you teach them to shift – easily – from fear to feeling confident (excitement probably isn’t the ideal or realistic emotion to aim for just now!) they will be able to think more clearly, retain information more easily and get better results.
Before you teach your child this, let’s find out how it works for you:
If there’s something you want to achieve, or a dream you want to turn into reality, there’s no need to fight your Monkey Mind. Instead you can play with this technique:
How to use the power of your intention to move that feeling of ‘scared’ or ‘nervous’ physically into excitement and confidence.
- Think about something you feel really confident about. Allow yourself to totally dive into that feeling, holding your body the way you were; imagining the things you were thinking. If you were to point a finger to where in your body that feeling is, where would you point?
- Think about something who’s want to do that you feel nervous or apprehensive about – we’re looking for a 3 out of 10 – no biggies here, and certainly no anxiety attack-scale fears! We’re just playing with the technique for now, while you get to learn it.
- Notice where in your stomach area (most likely) you feel that emotion. Take a moment to connect with the physical sensation.
- Then imagine you are moving it to the point in your body where you felt confidence. It might help to use your finger for this.
- Notice what happens. What happens to the emotions that you feel? What happens to the thoughts you are thinking?
For most of us, this simple technique is enough to turn apprehension and worry into ‘ok’. And from anticipation, it’s a much smaller step to a sense of confidence.What's the difference between fear and confidence? An #examstress guide plus life-changing 2-minute technique. Click To Tweet
Moving from fear to confidence doesn’t just make you feel better – it shifts your focus away from problems and towards potential solutions. And it improves your performance at whatever that task is.
If you want to find out the neuroscience behind why it works this way, there’s more information in the Exam Stress Quick Fix Course, along with 7 1/2 exam-stress-relief techniques, which gives you a whistle-stop tour of how our fears affect our business performance – from your brain’s point of view.
The more you play with this, the easier it becomes, until you find it’s an instinctive reaction and life becomes much less serious. It becomes more exciting, fun and playful.
I’d love to hear how you get on with this. Let me know, via the comments!
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Clare Josa has spent the past 15 years teaching over a million people to feel less stressed and to make the difference they are really here to make in the world. But when her eldest son hit exam stress - hard - she decided she had to do something to help parents to help their kids, and How to Beat Exam Stress was born. Clare is the author of five life-changing books and her recent debut novel, You Take Yourself With You, has been described by readers as 'unputdownable'.
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