PTF Parent Up Speaker Wendy Suzuki Shares Her Expertise on Managing Anxiety

Offering insightful presentations to the school community on the neuroscience of anxiety and ways address this common human emotion, St. Margaret’s welcomed Dr. Wendy Suzuki to campus last week as part of the 2021-2022 PTF Parent Up Speaker Series.
The focus of this year’s Parent Up Speaker Series in mental health and well-being, and Dr. Suzuki shared her expertise on anxiety to the parent community as well as Upper School and Middle School students. She is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University, and the author of two books—Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion, and Healthy Brain, Happy Life.
In her talk to the parent community, Dr. Suzuki dove into the feelings of anxiety and scientifically proven methods of combatting anxious feelings, including:
  • Breathing exercises. Dr. Suzuki took parents and students through a deep breathing cycle, with four seconds of inhaling, four seconds of holding and four seconds of exhaling. Such exercises activate the parasympathetic nervous system and can reduce anxious feelings.
  • Physical activity. Exercising three days a week has been connected to positive mental health outcomes. “Exercise is one of the most powerful things you can do to decrease depression and anxiety levels,” Dr. Suzuki said.
The presentation featured several light-hearted activities, including a brief group exercise session where parents and students then expressed their change in feelings.
Dr. Suzuki emphasized that not all anxiety is bad, and many anxious feelings are simply a natural response to the world around us. “There is a wisdom that comes with dealing with these uncomfortable emotions,” Dr. Suzuki said.
After the parent community, Dr. Suzuki met with St. Margaret’s all-school counselors, and later presented to Upper School and Middle School students during each division’s community time on managing anxiety as teenagers. Dr. Suzuki shared that breathing exercises and physical activity can help students manage the anxiety they may feel during a test, performance, or their lives in general.
“In these tense times, it was wonderful to learn ways to channel anxiety to be helpful rather than harmful to our health and well-being,” PTF President Amy Ainsworth said.
“Dr. Suzuki’s message that anxiety is a natural emotion is so valuable in normalizing the conversation about mental health,” said Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem. “She also provided practical tools for managing feelings of anxiety that were relevant for all members of our school community.  We are grateful for the support of the PTF in providing access to such impactful speakers who share their timely expertise.”
If you missed the presentations, video recordings are posted on the mySMES Resources page under the Parent Up tile. You can view the parent presentation by clicking here (password: parentupspeaker).
The Parent Up Speaker Series is an educational initiative generously funded by the PTF Grant Enrichment Program working in unison with St. Margaret’s academic leaders. This year’s series led off with Dr. Lisa Damour in October. The final PTF Parent Up Speaker of the 2021-2022 school year will be Dr. Drew Ramsey on Friday, March 18.
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