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How to Make Anxiety Work for You

Good Anxiety is a practical and empowering book to help us navigate a misunderstood emotion.

Making anxiety work for you
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When I saw anxiety described on the cover of Dr. Wendy Suzuki’s new book Good Anxiety as “the most misunderstood emotion,” I knew this book was going to be good for my life.

A positive approach to anxietySuzuki, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, garnered 31 million views for a 2018 TED talk in which she shared her research on brain plasticity, our brains’ ability to change and adapt throughout our lives. That talk focused on “the brain-changing benefits of exercise,” but her research focuses broadly on many ways anxiety—rather than a “negative” emotion—is a tool we have the power to optimize to cultivate resilience and peace in our lives.

I’m not sure this book could arrive more on time, given the “stuck” feelings and chronic stress that have stalked us all during the COVID pandemic.

Grounded in insights gleaned from her research, Suzuki’s book is also highly practical. There are 40 specific strategies and exercises she offers throughout the book to invite readers to “make anxiety work for you.” These include a self-survey to gauge your anxiety level in any given moment, learning to identify anxiety triggers and how you respond to them, and practical tips for how to cultivate an “activist mindset” to condition yourself for joyful, positive self-talk.

Like any book that supports an authentically positive lifestyle—as opposed to the toxically positive “everything is fine” mentality—Good Anxiety acknowledges that anxiety is uncomfortable, tiring and can impact our daily functioning in profound ways. That acknowledgement doesn’t mean we need to hide from anxiety. Instead, Suzuki encourages us to know it when we see it, reclaim it as a vehicle that we can steer towards resilience and peace and allow our brains to practice their plasticity superpowers when it comes to our relationship with anxiety. 

With ideas that can make brewing a cup of tea, taking a short walk, talking to a friend or writing in a journal feel deeply soothing to an anxious mind, Suzuki’s book is a resource I’m grateful to have as I step back towards “normal” life and learn to live with the seemingly omnipresence of the pandemic and its accompanying stressors.

What books have helped you navigate anxiety in the COVID era?

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