5 mind games that will help you stop feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, by a leading neuroscientist

  • Dr Wendy Suzuki claims that there are many reasons we can feel anxious.
  • Claims anxiety can be used to strengthen physical and emotional resilience  
  • This is how a leading neuroscientist can turn your anxiety into an amazing superpower 

There are many reasons we can feel anxious, from daily fears of pandemics to Christmas shopping being completed on time.

But it’s not all bad. According to my research, anxiety can be used for strengthening your mental and physical health, increasing your social intelligence, improving your creativity and improving your ability to communicate.

Here’s how:

Learn what are the triggers 

When you are fully aware of what makes you anxious, you can better channel the energy that’s stimulated.

  1. In order of concern, list your top 5 anxiety triggers.
  2. Each trigger should be listed next to it. Next, describe how each trigger makes you feel.
  3. You might be wondering why these anxieties are present. Do you have anxiety that your parents passed on to you? Is your school incident the cause of your anxiety?
  4. Reframe the negative experience or belief. Is it possible to accept the fact that the incident with the bully at school was an isolated event? Do you believe money is abundant?
Dr Wendy Suzuki reveals how anxiety can be used to strengthen your physical and emotional resilience, enhance your social intelligence and improve your creative skills (file photo)

Dr Wendy Suzuki shares how anxiety can help you increase your emotional and physical resilience, social intelligence, and creativity (file photo).

Recast your worries

We all have worries. However, studies have shown that visualizations of a positive outcome increase our ability to cope.

Do this at least once per day.

  1. Bring to mind one of your common worries (‘I’m rubbish at public speaking’).
  2. Five minutes of focus on only your breathing.
  3. Close your eyes and visualise a positive outcome to the worry (everyone telling you it was the best speech they’ve ever heard).
  4. Say out loud what the positive outcome is (‘after my talk everyone will congratulate me’).

Plan for every eventuality 

Try to channel anxiety and not feel stuck. Write down all your worries about reaching your goal, including any potential pitfalls.

List the actions you can take to address each item — this becomes your ‘to do’ list. As you go, mark each one.

The point at which you are able to welcome nervous jitters is when you realize what you can accomplish in every situation.

Dr Wendy Suzuki recommends using the heightened feeling caused by anxiety to help you connect with others (file image)

Dr Wendy Suzuki advises that anxiety can be used to aid in connecting with others. File image

To increase your creativity, use the feelings 

Creativity can be stifled by anxiety. A classic example would be writer’s block. But, it is possible to be inspired by painful emotions, which can sometimes lead to creativity.

Focus on the way anxiety makes you feel. You will miss out on an opportunity to harness anxiety for your benefit. You can learn to accept your anxiety by sitting with it and allowing yourself to feel the pain. Next, you will decide how to respond.

Compassion is your superpower 

To help others, you can harness the anxious feeling. Better still, you can convert empathy into the all-time anxiety superpower — compassion. Here’s how:

  • An anxiety-provoking memory can trigger your anxiety. Remind yourself of someone who you’re grateful for. It is a simple way to show your appreciation. Although it may be brief, your connection with the person will grow stronger.
  • Give to good causes and you can put money worries behind you.
  • Three friendly text messages are enough to send a friend a hello message or to ask for a clarification. You know the feeling of getting a surprise text message from a friend. If you do get a reply, pay attention to your feelings.
  • You can take your mind off your work worries and ask someone senior to serve as your adviser or mentor.
Dr Wendy Suzuki recommends breathing exercises and prioritising sleep to help you handle anxiety (file image)

Dr Wendy Suzuki advises you to practice relaxation and prioritize your sleep in an effort to reduce anxiety. (file photo) 

Here are 8 ways anxiety can be managed 

  1. Breathing exercises — slowly breathe in for four seconds, hold for six, breath out for eight and repeat.
  2. Divert your attention from whatever is triggering you — count the ceiling tiles or try to remember the names of everyone in the room.
  3. Rehearse a stressful situation — the fewer unknowns you are facing the more control you will have.
  4. Fuel your brain with nutritious food — dieting creates a sense of scarcity which diminishes a sense of self-control.
  5. Prioritise sleep — cut down on alcohol and spend a full eight hours in bed.
  6. Exercise — find the form of physical activity that gives you the biggest mood boost.
  7. Joy conditioning — when your anxiety is high, use a scent which evokes a warm memory to instigate feelings of happiness.
  8. Be kind — do something simple to help a friend. Altruism has been shown to be a great dopamine booster.

Adapted by Louise Atkinsaon from Anxiety Is Your Superpower by Dr Wendy Suzuki (£14.99, Yellow Kite) © Dr Wendy Suzuki 2021.