Want to unwind your anxiety? Now, there’s a step-by-step plan clinically proven to break the cycle of worry and fear that drives anxiety and addictive habits.
We are living through one of the most anxious periods many of us can remember. Whether facing issues as public as a pandemic or as personal as having kids at home and fighting the urge to reach for the wine bottle every night, we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control. But in his timely book, Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind, Judson Brewer, MD, PHD, explains how to uproot anxiety at its source using brain-based techniques and small hacks accessible to anyone. We think of anxiety as everything from mild unease to full-blown panic. But it’s also what drives the addictive behaviors and bad habits we use to cope (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, doom scrolling and social media). Plus, anxiety lives in a part of the brain that resists rational thought. So, we get stuck in anxiety habit loops that we can’t think our way out of or use willpower to overcome. Dr. Brewer teaches us how to map our brains to discover our triggers, defuse them with the simple but powerful practice of curiosity, and to train our brains using mindfulness and other practices that his lab has proven can work.
Citing the definition of addiction — “continued use despite adverse consequences”—Brewer argues that anxiety and addiction share similar patterns and can be addressed using similar principles: identifying a habit loop, then using mindfulness to change the way one’s brain values the behavior. “If you really pay careful and close attention,” Brewer writes, “…and you see that a behavior is not rewarding right now, I promise you that you will start to get less excited about doing it again.” Instead, one can give the brain a “bigger, better offer:” to bring curiosity and mindfulness toward one’s actions. Key Takeaways:
- Willpower is weaker than you think: you cannot think your way out of anxiety.
- Our brains have tricked us into thinking that we need to be anxious to get things done and perform well. Anxiety doesn’t actually improve performance.
- Fear + Uncertainty = Anxiety. This is our brain’s survival system trying to help but getting lost in today’s world.
- Anxiety is a habit loop. Anxiety and worry feed on each other, getting us stuck, and making both worse.
- Anxiety hides in unhealthy habits (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, distraction with social media)
- The key component in the process of unwinding anxiety is learning to be curious.
- You do need to learn how to be mindful and aware, but you don’t have to learn to meditate. Curiosity is a natural way into being mindfully aware.
- You have to know how your mind works, before you can work with it.
- You can hack your brain’s reward system to overcome anxiety (and other unhealthy habits)
Distilling more than 20 years of research and hands-on work with thousands of patients, including Olympic athletes and coaches, and leaders in government and business, Dr. Brewer has created a clear, solution-oriented program that anyone can use to feel better – no matter how anxious they feel.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.