A Simple Idea to Help With Repetitive Anxiety

[content: a quick tip for repetitive anxiety]

In the past, I’d regularly get trapped in the exact same worry over and over.

Often, it would be health anxiety. For example, I’d experience a symptom of some kind. And I’d immediately imagine that this symptom was coming from the worst possible cause. Perhaps a pain would be in my leg, and I’d think “that’s a blood clot, travelling to my lungs to kill me”.

For the rest of the day—week? month?—I’d struggle to concentrate on anything else, constantly fighting to keep my attention from the impending doom.

After years of living through this exact cycle, I realised I wasn’t learning anything. It was just the same thing, over and over and over again.

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How to Recover After a Setback

wer glaubt dass schweigen probleme löst by Daniel Wehner, on Flickr

Original Photo © Daniel Wehner, Daniel Wehner on Flickr.
CC BY 2.0

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

This year I’ve experienced a constant stream of setbacks, of varying degrees of seriousness: minor administrative life hassle, major family tragedy, missed career opportunities, painful emotional entanglements, idiotic breakages, unexpected financial demands.

At times, it’s felt as if the universe was sending me regular doses of deliberate punishment.

Each problem on its own wouldn’t be so bad. Especially since I recognise that I’m actually pretty lucky—I have my life mostly together, along with strong coping strategies and a solid support network.

But when problems come thick and fast—and, this year, another one kept appearing before I’d had time to process the last one—it can be too much for anyone to handle. When you’re already struggling, the smallest setback can tip the scales and dump thousands of final straws onto the camel’s back*.

*with hindsight, putting all those straws on scales above a camel was an avoidable mistake

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Why Goals Aren’t Enough—You Need to Set Directions Too

Directions by Luis Marina, on Flickr

Original Photo © Luis Marina, Luis Marina on Flickr.
CC BY 2.0

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

Recently, I caught up with a friend I don’t get to see often enough. Neither of us were in a Major Life Crisis, so we were doing that thing where we swap minor problems back and forth—everything from busyness to boredom to the various ways our ageing bodies are mysteriously misbehaving.

Naturally, we share that delightful human instinct for wanting to share solutions we’ve found. But after the conversation, I reflected on the advice we’d swapped, and I realised we had mostly both been talking to our past selves, rather than each other.

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Exhausted and Unproductive? This Might Help

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

As a kid, I never understood why adults were so slow. Surely it would be more natural to run around and bounce and clamber – what was wrong with them? Why were all adults so lazy?!

Now I’m (allegedly) an adult, I get it: We’re not lazy… we’re just exhausted.

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How Tiny, Unconscious Habits Can Lead to a World of Pain

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

“Look after yourself,” suggests a well-meaning friend.

“Um, thanks…” I respond—but privately, I bristle. What else am I going to do?! Not look after myself?

And yet… I absolutely need to be told this, because every single day I fail to take care of myself through dozens of poor, tiny decisions.
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What I’m Doing in July 2018

[post status: a brief life update]

When  Walking on Custard came out in 2015 (aside: I cannot believe that was three  years ago! What on EARTH is happening to the flow of time?!), I needed some sort of online home.

I considered all kinds of wild, imaginative ideas, like interactive websites which would act as companions to the book, somehow procedurally generating both entertainment and life advice…

… but in the end I realised that simplicity was definitely the best option in this case. So I set up this basic WordPress site, and voila: a place where I can muse about anxiety and life without having to put in much effort.

A simple blog that exists is better than an all-singing, all-dancing web experience that doesn’t.

And this place has served its purpose well!

I’m constantly surprised at how many people manage to stumble into my little corner of the internet, AND at how many of those people bother to send me lovely emails about articles which resonated with them. (They can’t ALL secretly be my mum, right?!)

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You Probably Need to Do This One Thing More Often

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

Do your attempts to be kind to yourself ever backfire?

I’ve noticed lately that my moments of self-generosity are occasionally actively unhelpful to me:

“Fine, I’ll watch another episode.”

“I’ve worked hard, I don’t need to exercise today.”

“If I eat a second dessert… then I can free up the time that I would have spent eating it later! Genius.”

None of these things are bad, of course. (In fact, I am a tremendous fan of being entertained, resting and eating sweet treats –  and I’m even happy to multitask all three, if necessary.)

However, there’s a common theme here:

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Freedom vs Security

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

Today: some thoughts about life decisions.

But First: Let’s Talk About Fourier Transforms,

[WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MATHS! (It’s optional, so skip it, if you like.)]

A few months ago, I was making a decision, and every time I thought about it, a mathematical analogy sprung to mind.

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How to Choose the Right Path When There are SO MANY POSSIBILITIES

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

To my great surprise, I’ve written two books.

The first was non-fiction, and I spent the entire process worrying about making factual errors. I checked and rechecked (and rechecked) everything obsessively. At the very least, I wanted to be able to honestly say that I’d done my best to make sure any information I was sharing was reasonably accurate.

As a means of handling this anxiety, occasionally I mixed in a chapter of flash fiction. This was such a relief! These random chapters about wizards and aliens and talking flowers didn’t have the same obligation to be correct – in fiction, I could make up anything I liked.

Idly, I dreamed of someday writing an entire novel… a whole project free from this pressure, a project where there were no rules.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Of course, it turned out that having no rules was also horrible… just differently horrible.

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Wasted Time Isn’t Wasted

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

We can’t control whether to spend our time, only what we spend it on.

This thought has echoed around and around in my mind ever since I read the story of Opus 40 – a sculpture park created by one man over 37 years(!).

Part of me recoils in horrified terror at the thought of spending 37 years on a single project. Sometimes, 37 minutes can feel like a lot!

But I still find this story inspirational.

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