According to Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and professor at the New York University Center for Neural Sciences, anxiety can be a good emotion. Rather than fight it, Suzuki says that throughout her life she has used that emotion to be more productive, more optimistic, and ultimately more resilient.
The researcher has specialized in the study of brain plasticity and the transformative effects of physical exercise on mental health and cognitive development. “What I’ve discovered over the years is that the most powerful way to combat anxiety is to constantly work to build your resilience and mental toughness,” says Suzuki.
She says that, to achieve that goal, you should practice these six exercises daily:
1. Visualize positive results
At the beginning or end of each day, think about all those uncertain situations that are currently in your life, including both large and small. Will I receive a good performance evaluation? Will my child settle down well in his new school? Will I receive an answer after my job interview?
Now take each of those situations and envision the most optimistic outcome the situation can have. Not just the good result, but “the best” possible result you can imagine. This practice allows training in the development of expecting positive results.
2. Turn anxiety into progress
The plasticity of our brains is what allows us to be resilient during difficult times: learning to calm down, reevaluate situations, reframe our thoughts and make smarter decisions. It’s easier to take advantage of this when we remind ourselves that anxiety doesn’t always have to be bad. Consider these propositions:
– Anger could block your attention and ability to perform, or it could propel and motivate you. Anger sharpens your attention and serves as a reminder of what is important.
– Fear could trigger memories of past failures. When that happens, it takes your attention away and lowers your performance. But it could also make you more careful with your decisions, help you deepen your reflections, and create opportunities to change direction.
– Sadness could flatten your mood and demotivate you, or it could help you change your priorities and motivate you to transform your environment, circumstances, and behavior.
– Worry could cause you to procrastinate and prevent you from achieving your goals, or it could help you fine-tune your plans, adjust your expectations, and become more realistic so that you can focus on achieving goals.
– Frustration could hamper your progress and take away your motivation, or it could challenge you to improve.
These comparisons may seem simplistic, but they point to powerful options that produce tangible results.
3. Try something new
These days, it’s easier than ever to take a new online class, play a sport, or participate in a virtual event. Not long ago, I participated in a live Instagram workout with Wimbledon champion Venus Williams where she used bottles as weights. I’ve never done something like this before. It turned out to be a fantastic and memorable experience.
My point is, for free (or just for a small fee) you can push your brain and body to try something you’ve never considered before. It doesn’t have to be training and it doesn’t have to be difficult; It may be something just above your level or just outside your comfort zone.
4. Communicate with other people
Being able to ask for help, stay connected with friends and family, and actively foster encouraging and supportive relationships not only helps you keep anxiety at bay, but also reinforces the feeling that you are not alone.
It is not easy to cultivate, but the belief and feeling that you are surrounded by people who care about you is crucial in times of enormous stress, when you need to call on your own resilience to persevere and maintain your well-being.
When we suffer a loss or other forms of distress, it is natural to withdraw. We even see this type of behavior in animals that are in mourning. However, you also have the power to push yourself into the company of those who can help you take care of yourself.
5. Practice positive self-tweeting
The artist Lin-Manuel Miranda published a book in which she talks about the tweets she sends at the beginning and end of each day. In it, she shares what are essentially upbeat little messages that are fun, unique, and overall charming.
If you observe her interviews, you will see an intrinsically strong and optimistic person. How can you become so resilient, productive, and creative? Clearly, part of the answer is positive reminders. You don’t need to share them with the public. The idea is to be encouraged to do it at the beginning and at the end of the day.
If you find it difficult, try to think about what a person who has been important in your life (brother, friend, mentor, father) would say to you and then write the tweet or just say it to yourself.
6. Immerse yourself in nature
Science has shown time and again that spending time in nature has positive effects on our mental health. Some studies have found that it can significantly increase your emotional well-being and resilience.
You don’t need to live next to a forest to immerse yourself in nature. A nearby park or any quiet green environment where there are not many people will work well. Breathe, relax, and become aware of sounds, smells, and sights. Use all of your senses to create a greater awareness of the natural world. This exercise increases your overall recovery capacity, as it acts as a kind of energy restoration and restores your balance.