- According to neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, it is a natural emotion designed to aid in our survival.
- You can’t “turn off” anxiety, but you can “reduce it” and take advantage of it.
- These strategies can help you when the feeling gets the better of you.
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Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki wants people to rethink anxiety and learn how to deal with it. Along with stress and depression, it is one of the most frequent occurrences today.
While it’s important to learn how to “turn the volume down” on anxiety in the modern, fast-paced world, Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, says this feeling is also normal and is there to help us.
It is difficult to be completely silent in the beginning. It is associated with pain, sadness, insomnia, nervousness and in general, impaired mental health.
According to Suzuki, when someone feels anxious, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated, which increases heart rate, increases respiration, and moves blood away from the digestive and reproductive organs.
This response evolved as a useful way of dealing with danger, but when it is sustained it can cause damage to the body.
Long-term stress or generalized anxiety disorder can increase the risk of heart disease, lead to disorders such as depression, and cause fertility problems.
Exercise can help to “turn the volume down” on anxiety by releasing dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, which are considered happiness hormones, into the brain.
Breathing and meditation, on the other hand, help activate the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation.
However, even for people with mild cases of anxiety, exercise and meditation can’t make those feelings go away completely, she says.
And there are more and more people who may be in need of treatment, downplaying the clinical concern. In these cases, Suzuki recommends speaking with specialists to weigh options for therapy or medication.
How to control anxiety?
1. Match each concern with an action
Suzuki says a simple trick can help turn worry into something productive.
Make a list of the things that are worrying you and think of practical steps you can take to address them.
According to Suzuki, just thinking about all you can do is satisfying because it returns anxiety to its evolutionary roots.
“Early in our evolution, the answer was fight or flight, because it was usually a physical threat. It wasn’t: ‘Oh my God, the oceans are warming. What am I going to do?'”, he expounds.
“So by taking action on each of those worries, you go back to that action-oriented resolution for your worry.”
2. Knowing What Anxiety Feels Increases Your Empathy
Suzuki states that she has always been shy and although she liked school, she had difficulty participating in class. When she became a teacher, this concern informed her perspective on the student body.
“I realized that this personal concern became a superpower for me, because what did I do? I would come in early, stay late, make sure I went around and answered as many of those unanswered questions as possible. I can,” he says.
When we understand what it’s like to experience anxiety about something, according to the expert, we can help those who share our concerns.
3. Get inspired by other people to rethink your fears
Suzuki says that we feel anxiety about things we believe to be true.
One way to redirect those limiting beliefs is to think about your fear and consider how other people in your life would deal with a similar situation.
“Who are the people at school that you most admire for what they do? Who are the teachers? Who are the leaders in your life? Who are the authors in your world that you admire most? What projects do they do?” How do they cope and what is their mindset?”, the neuroscientist exemplifies.
Suzuki says that’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be very profound if you take it seriously.
So you can turn your anxiety into a tool to transform yourself into the person you want to be.
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