A fast-beating heart (dealing with psychophysiological reactions, incl. fear)

You’re a fool, said the internal editor. Some people have tried to kill you. You’re concealing information from the Watch. You’re mixing with strange people. You’re about to do something that’s going to get so far up Mister Vimes’s nose it will raise his hat. And why?
Because it makes my blood tingle, he thought. And because I’m not going to be used. By anyone.
«The Truth» by Terry Pratchett

If you do things that are outside of your current comfort zone, psychophysiological reactions are likely. Sweating, red face, a high heart rate. But just because your body reacts to the situation does not mean that you should have to feel fear.

After all, firstly these bodily reactions are just that — bodily reactions. What you do with a reaction like a fast-beating heart, what you think it means, that can be up to you. And it’s not just me saying it, there are actually theories on human emotion stating that the emotions we feel depend on how we interpret our physiological reactions.

One situation where I noticed the power of this interpretation in my own life was with presentations. I am introverted and worked on my presentation skills (first by participating in courses about presentation techniques, later when giving presentations or doing whole courses at the university).

And yeah, my heart rate does go up during those presentations. Recently, when I was doing an online lecture, my watch informed me that my heart rate was over 100 despite not moving around. I was standing in front of the computer the whole time, giving the lecture, it wouldn’t have happened in a lecture in presence giving that I would have walked around a lot in that situation. My heart rate would have been well over 100 as well, but as I would be moving the watch wouldn’t have triggered an alarm.

While the heart rate was high, and is high during presentations, I do not consider it as a negative. On the contrary. The high heart rate provides me with lots of energy that I need to be on top of my game. It allows me to think fast, speak loudly, and react to unforeseen events (or even student questions, if there are student questions).

And once I began to interpret the high heart rate this way, as something that provides me with energy and helps me — well, the uneasiness I felt when speaking publicly disappeared (being prepared as fuck also helps).

And I think the same principle holds true in other situations (had the same experience in oral exams). Also when asking audience questions, or whenever else you are on the spot. Just change the interpretation from “my heart is jumping out of my chest so I should flee” to “my heart is pumping like crazy so I have everything available to deal with the situation”. And I can deal with the situation.

It’s just switching from flight to fight (well, fighting with words, hopefully).

So, a high heart-rate is a thing, but what it means as a consequence is up to you. So why not attribute it to excitement only and use the energy as you see fit?