In today’s times, with the ongoing pandemic, the overwhelming feeling of anxiety is not new to most individuals. The words stress and anxiety are at the forefront of a lot of social media feeds these days, which in itself is a signal of people’s mental health at large.
In most cases, anxiety proves to be an obstacle in an individual’s daily life, triggering feelings like self-doubt and interfering with basic daily requirements like sleep and diet.
It Is Time To Befriend Your Anxiety Is Not New To Most Individuals
However, New York University professor of neural science and psychology, Wendy Suzuki wants to change the narrative around anxiety in her book “Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion” in which she explains the biological structure of anxiety, which helps us shift our perspective, so we feel empowered and not helpless.
Some of the science-backed facts explained in Suzuki’s books:
Anxiety has a protective purpose
The underlying physiological response to anxiety in the form of increased heart rate or butterflies in the stomach has evolved with the purpose of protecting human beings from environmental threats.
The first step in shifting one’s perspective on anxiety is to understand that it continues to serve the same purpose in modern life as well, by alerting us to take action.
So, the idea is to appreciate the feeling of anxiety and not panic and run away from it, even though it may trigger uncomfortable emotions.
Suzuki explains that in modern times, there is a push for teaching people how to be happy, but the reality is that humans are complex organisms with a variety of emotions that serve a purpose, which is not to annoy but to help better understand oneself and the world around.
The brain is wired for change
Even though anxiety feels overwhelming, Suzuki, who has spent her science career studying neuroplasticity, feels optimistic about the emotion.
She claims that the human brain is capable of responding positively if it is well treated with things like exercise and good food or it can even shrink and die in the face of excessive stress. She insists it is important to identify triggers as well as effective soothing techniques to handle anxiety effectively.
Anxiety easing tactics
Exercise and deep breathing are not just known ways to reduce stress levels, but they are also easily accessible to all, besides having remarkable neurophysiological effects.
Suzuki explains that upon slowing down of breath, the brain activates the parasympathetic rest-and-digest response, which calms the body, in opposition to the fight-or-flight physiological survival response that triggers anxiety.
She suggests that parents can engage in deep breathing tactics with their children to help them cope with stress at school.
Similarly, even simple physical exercise like a walk will release Neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline that can change the mood.
Suzuki insists that a vital step towards this shift is to let go of a perfectionist attitude, which can lead to self-sabotage. Instead, she insists that appreciating yourself for your positive qualities and thus building your self-confidence helps tackle anxiety from a different viewpoint.
Suzuki recommends reliving some joyful past experiences mentally can improve your sense of well-being, which is called joy conditioning.
She claims joy conditioning offsets fear conditioning, which is a known trigger for anxiety, but because humans don’t naturally have a self-referent joy conditioning response, it needs some self-training.
Wendy Suzuki concludes that even though anxiety triggers can be very personal, the potential to channel anxiety to connect with a higher emotion – empathy is universal. So, the end goal is to become friends with your anxiety and not panic and desperately run away from it.
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