Transforming Anxiety into Excitement: The Power of Heart-Centered Breathing

Two years ago, I found myself navigating the winding roads of Spain on a newly purchased motorcycle. My heart pounded with a mix of excitement and anxiety. It had been five years since I last rode, and I felt insecure, fearing the possibility of crashing and dying in an accident. As I gripped the handlebars tightly, I realized that the initial excitement of buying the bike had gradually morphed into anxiety. How did I let this happen? I wondered. What could I do to regain my confidence and sense of excitement? The answer to these questions, as you’re about to find out, is literally one breath away.

Excitement and anxiety are more closely connected than you’ve ever imagined. In this article, I’ll share my journey from anxiety to excitement and the surprising science behind it. Follow these steps, and you’ll discover a simple yet profound tool to reframe your anxiety, build greater emotional resilience, and open up new possibilities for joy and fulfillment in your life. Let’s dive in.

My Lifelong Struggle with Anxiety

Something you may not know about me is that I’ve struggled with anxiety for much of my life. As a child, I was painfully shy and afraid to speak up in class. As a young adult, I experienced panic attacks before castings, job interviews, and first dates. Even as I began to build a successful coaching practice, I still wrestled with fear, self-doubt, and insecurity behind the scenes.

However, through my training in applied heart intelligence, I learned a valuable technique. I discovered that whenever I focused my breath on my heart, I could neutralize negative emotions like fear and activate a sense of inner calm. So, as I drove my motorcycle that day, I began to focus on my breath and dropped into my heart. Immediately, I felt my anxiety begin to transform. Suddenly, I wasn’t just afraid—I was excited, exhilarated, alive. I felt open and even at one with the road. I realized that this simple shift in physiology and mindset held the key to unlocking a whole new way of being.

The Science of Anxiety and Excitement: A Closer Look

Now, you might be wondering, how could something as simple as breathing have such a profound effect? The answer lies in the science behind it.

Research shows that anxiety and excitement share almost identical physiological markers. Consider this: a racing heart, sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach – do these sensations mean you’re anxious about a job interview, or eagerly anticipating a first date? Studies have found that the hormonal profiles of anxiety and excitement are virtually indistinguishable in the body. Both emotional states stimulate the release of adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate in preparation for a perceived threat or significant event. Cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, mobilizes glucose into your bloodstream for quick energy and suppresses non-emergency bodily functions like digestion. Hence, the hormonal response to anxiety and excitement is remarkably similar, reflecting their intertwined nature.

A good way to understand this is to compare it to riding a roller coaster. Your heart races, your breath quickens, your muscles tense – and yet, you probably describe the experience as thrilling rather than threatening. The physical sensations are the same, but your mindset is different.

How Perception Changes the Game

The key difference between these states is not so much what’s happening in your body, but how you perceive, interpret and respond to it. When You’re anxious, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, triggering the fight-or-flight response. You get trapped in negative self-talk, amplifying the stress in your body.

But when you’re excited, you tend to breathe more deeply, oxygenating the brain and body. You focus on the opportunities in the situation, not just the risks. This one difference in breathing and mindset makes all the difference in how you feel and perform. And the good news is, you can learn to make this shift deliberately – using a simple technique I learned from the HeartMath Institute.

Heart-Centered Breathing: A Gateway to Excitement

The HeartMath Institute has discovered that the key to shifting from anxiety to excitement lies in generating coherence between the heart, brain, and nervous system. By focusing your attention on the heart and breathing in a slow, rhythmic pattern, you create a state of calm, balance, and emotional control.

This technique, known as the Quick Coherence Technique, is simple yet powerful. Here’s how you can use it to shift from anxiety to excitement:

  1. Focus your attention on your heart. Imagine breathing through it, inhaling and exhaling a soft, warm light.
  2. Breathe in for a count of 5, allowing your belly to expand. Breathe out for a count of 5, sighing out the breath through pursed lips.
  3. As you breathe, activate a positive feeling, like gratitude, compassion, or appreciation. Recall a time you felt deep care, love, or connection, and let yourself re-experience that feeling.
  4. Silently affirm to yourself, “With each breath, I’m letting go of anxiety and fear. With each breath, I’m welcoming excitement and flow.”
  5. Continue heart-focused breathing and holding the positive feeling for 2–3 minutes, or until you feel a shift in your emotional state.

I’ve used this technique in countless nerve-wracking situations – before leading a workshop or recording a video, during a difficult conversation, even in the dentist’s chair! And every time, I’m amazed at how quickly it calms my nervous system and opens me up to a more empowered state.

Embracing Discomfort for Growth

As I rode my motorcycle through Spain that day, I realized that my anxiety was pointing me toward something important – the edge of my comfort zone, where true growth happens. Each time I noticed anxiety arising – and with it a need to close up, I dropped into my heart, breathed rhythmically, and opened up by surrendering to the feeling with faith. With each breath into my heart, I expanded my capacity to handle discomfort and uncertainty.

This is the hidden gift of anxiety: it’s a signpost pointing us toward our growth edge. When you learn to embrace it instead of running from it, you discover how capable and resilient you really are. Every time you choose courage over comfort, you grow. That’s how you build the muscle of emotional resilience.

When you master the ability to alchemize anxiety into excitement, you not only transform your own experience of life, but you also become a model of emotional resilience and courageous leadership for others. By embracing your fears and letting your heart guide you forward, you inspire those around you to do the same. This ripple effect of heart-centered living and leading is how we can heal ourselves and our world, one breath and one choice at a time.

Putting it into Practice

Learning to transform anxiety into excitement through heart-centered breathing has been a game-changer for me, both personally and professionally – and I can say the same for each client or student to whom I have taught this practice. It’s allowed me to take risks I never would have before, have difficult conversations, and stretch myself in ways that have deeply enriched my life and relationships.

As you begin to apply the Quick Coherence Technique outlined earlier in this article, remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself. Like any new skill, it takes practice to master. But with consistency and commitment, you’ll start to see profound shifts in your ability to transmute anxiety into excitement and courageous action.

The Power of Shifting from Anxiety to Excitement

With practice, you’ll start to see anxiety not as an enemy, but as an invitation to grow beyond your self-imposed limitations. You’ll develop a new relationship with your fears – one of curiosity, compassion, and courage. You’ll discover a profound truth: behind each of your fears lies a great desire. The gateway to your deepest fulfillment often lies at the very edge of your comfort zone.

So, the next time anxiety comes knocking, take a heart-centered breath and remember: you’re just one breath and one thought away from transforming it into excitement. You have within you all the strength, wisdom, and resilience you need to meet this moment and emerge victorious. If I can do it, so can you!

Final Thoughts

Behind your anxiety, there is a deeper desire to feel fully alive. The world needs more people like you who are willing to face their fears with an open heart and let their deepest excitement lead the way. As philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Dr. Howard Thurman once wrote:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

May you find the courage to transcend your anxiety and fears and come fully alive today – and every day hereafter. If you’re interested in diving deeper into understanding and transforming anxiety, I invite you to explore my three-part series on the topic:

In this series, we’ll take a closer look at the many faces of anxiety, the situations that often trigger it, and most importantly, how you can overcome it by tapping into the power of your heart. Join me on this journey to greater emotional freedom, resilience, and joy.

From my heart to yours, 


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