Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist and professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, as well as the author of Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion.
She has spent years researching anxiety in her lab, and through this process has formed strategies to combat anxiety by working on resilience and mental strength. Here are the six daily exercises she uses to build these two essential skills.
Visualize positive outcomes
Many people may think that visualizing the best and most optimistic outcome for any uncertain situation may set themselves up for even greater disappointment, but in fact, it conditions us to anticipate positive results and may result in the generation of more ideas that will spur you towards your most desired outcome.
Turn anxiety into progress
Anxiety is often conceptualized negatively in our minds, but experiencing anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. Instead, try to reframe your anxiety so that you can take advantage of its benefits—and yes, there can be benefits. Consider this:
- Anger could distract you from performing at your best or it can be used as fuel to become more focused and motivated.
- Fear could make you fixate on past failures, making you second guess your abilities and undermine how you perform, or it could help you reflect deeply about your next moves and remind you to make decisions carefully.
- Sadness could deflate and demotivate you, or it could help you reassess your situation, reconsider your priorities, and motivate you to change habits, behaviors, or environments in your life that aren’t serving you anymore.
- Worry could paralyze you from getting work done, or it could help you refine your strategies and goals and adjust your expectations so that they are more realistic.
- Frustration could make you want to quit, or it could motivate you to get creative by innovating new solutions.
Try something new
Taking on a new hobby or skill has never been easier. Take advantage of the abundance of online classes, virtual events, and local clubs to push your brain and body to do something unfamiliar and get out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes we may feel alone in our struggles. To keep this feeling at bay, be sure to stay connected to friends and family. Encouraging relationships help reduce anxiety because they cultivate the sense that you are not alone, but that you have the support of people who care about you. This is essential during times of overwhelming stress.
Practice positive self-tweeting
You don’t actually have to share public tweets to yourself, but giving yourself positive reminders of things that make you laugh or that you find uplifting at the beginning and end of each day will help you become a mentally strong and optimistic person. If you’re someone who has the tendency to be hard on yourself for anything you do, think about what your biggest supporters in life would say to you instead, and then say it to yourself.
Immerse yourself in nature
Spending time in nature can act as a reset. You don’t need to live in the countryside or in the middle of a forest to access nature either—a nearby park, a quiet grassy space, or a rooftop garden can do the trick if you’re a city dweller. Breathe and relax as you pay attention to your sensations. Take note of the sounds, smells, and sights around you. It will restore you, give you energy, and boost your overall sense of resilience.