Good Anxiety “Helps Us Rebound and Refocus”

(p. A15) “Good Anxiety” is especially effective in arguing that anxiety shouldn’t be something we seek to hide, numb or even fix. Instead we can use it as a form of energy, thanks to the power of brain plasticity, our ability to rewire this potentially destructive response process. It’s what enables us to learn how to calm down, reassess situations and reframe our thoughts and feelings. “Anxiety is changeable, adaptable like any other feature of our brain,” Ms. Suzuki argues. The promise of her book, she writes, is a better understanding of “how anxiety works in the brain and body” so that we can learn how to adjust our own misfiring neurons.

Anxiety can even give us “hidden superpowers.” Resilience, for example, is learned through dealing with stress, and helps us rebound and refocus after difficult, challenging events. Even bigger payoffs come, Ms. Suzuki suggests, by adopting what she calls an “activist mindset”—the belief that we can reframe our thoughts in a positive and opportunistic way. This gives us agency over how we react to situations. “When it feels like a door has slammed on you, anxiety can lead you to feel like there’s no way out of the room; the activist mindset allows you to take a step back and look for a window,” she writes.

. . .

If anxiety is uncontrolled, our focus is liable to turn sour: Overstating real or imagined threats leads to hypervigilance and dwelling on danger. But Ms. Suzuki argues that anxiety plays a role in executive function, the interaction between attention, thinking and emotion, where it can be used for good. By decreasing distractions, meditating, exercising and transforming a “what-if” list into a productive “to-do” list, anxious thinkers can channel their energy toward progress.

For the full review, see:

Taylor Cromwell. “BOOKSHELF; The Upside Of Worry.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 17, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Sept. 3, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Good Anxiety’ Review: The Upside of Worry.”)

The book under review is:

Suzuki, Wendy. Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Atria Books, 2021.

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