Is anxiety always a bad thing to get rid of?
When is it a superpower you need the most?
How do you rein in anxiety to benefit from it?
We have all experienced anxiety on some level at various points in our lives. COVID-19 and the global response to it have brought massive changes and deep uncertainty since the start of 2020.
Before then, 90% of Americans in the room raised their hand when asked if they had experienced daily anxiety. Wendy Suzuki, a neural science and psychology professor at NYU, says that number has gone way up. But she reminds us that at its core, anxiety is really a protective mechanism. Like all emotions, it serves an evolutionary purpose and is key to survival.
1) Anxiety is generally defined as worry over an imminent possible event or worry over uncertainty.
2) Anxiety is a psychological and physical response to stress, which moves you into fight, flight or freeze mode.
3) Currently, 28% or nearly 1/3 of Americans are diagnosed with a clinical, anxiety disorder. Examples are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, and OCD.
4) Chronic anxiety weakens the immune system, contributes to heart disease, impairs brain health, creates indigestion, and makes us less productive. It causes negative plasticity in the brain, changes our biochemistry and raises blood pressure.
5) Good anxiety tells you what’s important, what needs attention, what you value, and what to avoid. By befriending anxiety, you can build resilience, patience, compassion and empathy, and leverage nervous energy to deal with challenges.
6) According to the Yerkes-Dodson curve, a bit of anxiety can put you in the optimal state to perform a difficult task. But just like fine wine and delicious chocolate, you can have too much of a good thing.
7) Four tools that Dr. Suzuki recommends for activating the parasympathetic, destressing part of the nervous system:
a) Deep Breathing – which includes the 4 x 4 box breathing method.
b) Movement – which includes a power walk outside or walking up and down the stairs. Cardio exercise for about 45 minutes, two to three times per week, gives the most benefits.
c) Joy conditioning – which is active recall and selection of memories of your most joyful experiences, especially ones with olfactory associations.
d) Social support – which you might need to choose carefully because certain relationships are better than others for certain purposes and in different contexts.
8) Why you need to create an enriched environment and escape impoverished environments for brain health and emotional wellbeing.
9) Approach anxiety with an exploratory mindset so you can harness it as a superpower.
10) Embracing good anxiety helps you to avoid toxic positivity and experience the expansiveness of your emotions.
- Wendy Suzuki, Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion
- Dyan Williams, The Incrementalist podcast, Ep. 14, Morning Routines and Rituals to Start Your Day
- Dyan WIlliams, The Incrementalist podcast, Ep. 15, Evening Routines and Rituals to End Your Day
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Dyan Williams is a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is also a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.