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How to Turn Anxiety into a Superpower: Five Mind Games to Keep You from Feeling Bad


How to Turn Anxiety into a Superpower: Five Mind Games to Keep You from Feeling Bad, by a Leading Neuroscientist

  • Dr. Wendy Suzuki says we have plenty of perfectly justified reasons to be concerned
  • Purported anxiety can be used to strengthen physical and emotional resilience
  • Here, a leading neuroscientist reveals how to turn anxiety into a superpower










From everyday pandemic worries to getting it all done by Christmas, we have plenty of well-founded reasons to be concerned.

But it’s not all bad. My studies have shown that anxiety can be used to strengthen your physical and emotional resilience, enhance your social intelligence and improve your creative skills.

Here’s how:

Learn about triggers:

When you are fully aware of what is making you anxious, you can better channel the motivating energy.

  1. List your top five anxiety triggers in order of concern.
  2. Next to each case, write the most recent situation, idea, or memory that caused you anxiety. Then write down how you feel with each stimulus.
  3. Think about why you have both of these concerns. Did you inherit worry about money from your parents? Does your social anxiety stem from an accident at school?
  4. Now paraphrase that negative event or belief. Can you accept that the episode with the school bully was a one-time event? Can you cultivate the belief that money is plentiful?

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)

Reframe your fears

Most of us have a cache of fears that bite us. But studies show that imagining a positive outcome gives you an increased cognitive ability to cope.

Try doing this once a day:

  1. Consider one of your common fears (“I’m bullshit when speaking in public”).
  2. Spend five minutes focusing only on your breathing.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine a positive outcome of anxiety (everyone tells you it’s the best speech they’ve ever heard).
  4. Say out loud the affirmative (“After my speech, everyone will congratulate me”).

Action plan for each possibility

Instead of feeling anxious out of worry, try to turn your fears into action. Think of a goal and write down your concerns about it, mentioning any potential risks and negative scenarios.

Make a list of the actions you can take to tackle each item – this becomes your “to-do” list. Work through it, marking each action as you get it done.

You should get to the point where you welcome the nervous tension because you know exactly what you can do in any case.

Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends using the heightened sense of anxiety to help you connect with others (file photo)

Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends using the heightened sense of anxiety to help you connect with others (file photo)

Use feeling to boost creativity

Bad anxiety can stop creativity. The classic example would be writer’s block. However, painful feelings can often lead to a heightened creativity, forcing you to dig deeper to find solutions.

Try to focus on how anxious you feel. If you deny worrying, you’ll miss the chance to use it for good. Sitting with your anxiety and discomfort allows you to get used to the feeling and learn that you can survive it. You can then decide how to act.

Find Empathy: Your Superpower

Use the heightened feeling of anxiety to help you connect with others. Even better, you can turn empathy into an all-time anxiety superpower – empathy. Here’s how:

  • Your anxiety is caused by a bad memory, remind yourself of someone you are grateful for. Send a note explaining why you are grateful to them. It can be very short, but it will be appreciated and strengthen your relationship with this person.
  • Put your money worries into perspective by donating to a good cause.
  • Send three friendly texts to say hello or to ask a question. Do you know how good it is to receive an unexpected text message from a friend? Pay attention to how you feel if you get a response.
  • Calm your business fears by asking someone older than you to be your mentor and advisor.
Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends breathing exercises and prioritizing sleep to help you deal with anxiety (file photo)

Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends breathing exercises and prioritizing sleep to help you deal with anxiety (file photo)

Eight ways to deal with anxiety

  1. Breathing exercises – breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold for six, then breathe out for eight and then repeat.
  2. Distract yourself from whatever motivates you – count the ceiling tiles or try to remember the names of everyone in the room.
  3. Practice the stressful situation – the fewer unknowns you face, the more control you have.
  4. Feed your brain with nutritious food – dieting creates a sense of scarcity which reduces feelings of self-control.
  5. Prioritize sleep – cut back on alcohol and spend a full eight hours in bed.
  6. Exercise – Find the form of physical activity that gives you the most mood boost.
  7. Conditioning Joy – When your anxiety is high, use a scent that evokes a warm memory to evoke feelings of happiness.
  8. Be kind – do something simple to help a friend. Studies show that altruism involves a huge amount of dopamine.

Adapted by Louise Atkinson from The book Anxiety is Your Superpower by Dr Wendy Suzuki (£14.99, kite yellow) © Dr. Wendy Suzuki 2021.

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