How to Harness Your 'Good' Anxiety

June 07, 2024

Why she wrote Good AnxietyI noticed my students in the College of Arts and Science seemed more anxious than they had before. The emotion of anxiety, which is a normal human emotion, evolved not to annoy us like it does every day. I still hate my anxiety, and it's not good. Well, anxiety feels not so good these days because the level is ramped up way too high. Every day anxiety is that anxiety you feel as an NYU student, as an NYU parent, or an NYU worker, just dealing with all the things we have to deal with.

The following are some of the takeaways that Suzuki provided (in addition to a variety of breathing and movement techniques) to those looking for a little calm amidst an anxious day, week—or life.

Why she wrote Good Anxiety

I noticed my students in the College of Arts and Science seemed more anxious than they had before. But then I sat back I was a little bit more honest, and I thought, it's not just them who are more anxious, I'm more anxious, my friends are more anxious, my colleagues are more anxious. And, I knew as a neuroscientist there were so many tools that we know from psychology and neuroscience to try and alleviate some of the negative effects of anxiety. So it started off focusing on that. What can I do? What tools can I bring to just lower our level? 

Defining anxiety

That feeling of fear and worry that typically comes with situations of uncertainty. Does that resonate with anybody? The uncertainty is really what kind of activates that. The human brain is really the star of the show. It's our brain, not Einstein's brain or Marie Curie's brain, but our brain in our head that defines how we see the world, how we smell, how we feel, how we touch, how we hear, and how we feel emotionally about the world. It is literally the most complex structure known to humankind. 

The emotion of anxiety, which is a normal human emotion, evolved not to annoy us like it does every day. It actually evolved to protect us. It's easier to understand if you think back to some of our ancestors 2.5 million years ago. Imagine a human ancestor. Maybe she just had a baby. She's looking for food and she hears the crack of a twig. Or maybe she feels an earthquake for the very first time. Anxiety, like we all feel even today. Why? Because it could be a warning. Maybe it's a big animal coming to charge her. Maybe it's just a small earthquake that she doesn't have to worry about. 

The physiology of anxiety

The emotion of anxiety releases all the stress hormones; it’s a brain-centered protective response that gets us ready to either run away or fight. How does it do that? It shunts blood from our digestive and reproductive organs towards our muscles. It increases our heart rate so we can run. It increases our respiration rate. It opens up the iris of our eyes so we see everything clearly. And we are ready to go. 

And you might say, okay, that sounds good, but what about me? I still hate my anxiety, and it's not good. Well, anxiety feels not so good these days because the level is ramped up way too high. And so what we need to do is learn how to turn the volume down. Every day anxiety is that anxiety you feel as an NYU student, as an NYU parent, or an NYU worker, just dealing with all the things we have to deal with. 

The source of this news is from New York University

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