"Unwinding Anxiety" by Judson Brewer

Review by Borodutch

Do you ever feel anxious? It's a trick question; we all do. Anxiety is something engineered by the natural selection process (i.e., non-anxious people died). Our brains are hardwired to feel anxious, and we can do nothing with it. Or can we?

The author suggests a simple 3-step process to "unwind" anxiety when it appears:

  1. Recognize that you're anxious.
  2. Observe the behaviors that result from being anxious.
  3. Replace the behaviors with healthier alternatives.

Judson also explains how there could be "triggers" to anxious behavior that we can notice and work with. For example, clenching your fists before you go into full fight-or-flight mode. When you notice that you physically clench your fists, replace this behavior with something else, and you might avoid the anxiety attack.

However, this is close to impossible without mindfulness training. Hence, the author details how to become more mindful of your body with meditation and awareness of breath techniques. It doesn't take much, but some "meta" cognition, when you notice and label exactly what's going on with your body, emotions, and feelings, goes a long way in preventing anxiety and the following bad behavior.

Even though most of the author's recommendations were already second nature to me, I found that being mindful about hunger and eating helps significantly with various lousy eating behaviors I've developed over the last few months. We never stop learning, and "Unwinding Anxiety" surprised me with the insights I got from the material I already knew.