When we encounter something new, we often feel a mixture of curiosity and anxiety. Curious, because newness can be intriguing, exciting; anxious, because newness can also bring uncertainty and risk. This column explores why we often let anxiety win this internal battle, but suggests we should do the opposite: that is, do what you value and follow your curiosity.
Sometimes, our emotions cause us to do things that aren’t good for us. However, you don’t have to be a prisoner to your emotions. In this article, I examine the opposite action strategy – that is, do the opposite of what your emotions are telling you to do.
I recently talked about exposure therapy and the importance of facing your fears. But what if you fear the thought of relaxing and being 'too happy'? One way of changing this mindset is by devising what I call emotional exposures. This article explores the aim of these emotional exposures: to drop that guard, to give give yourself permission to hope and be happy.
The best way of overcoming your fears is to confront them. Exposure therapy – exposure and response prevention or ERP, to use the proper name – is a proven psychological treatment for all forms of anxiety, but how exactly does it work?
Perfectionism is sometimes seen as a positive trait, but the reality is the psychological downsides to perfectionism can be very grave indeed. In the first of a three-part series, I explain what underpins perfectionism and why it drives and maintains unhappiness and pain.
Exposure to certain pathogens when you're young can help build immunity to them in later life. It's the same thing with mental health – exposure to feared situations and to discomfort in general will build up your immunity to those same forces. Put differently, too much safety can be dangerous; the biggest risk you can take is to try and live a risk-free life.
Good mental health requires that you be both self-compassionate and honest with yourself. The latter point is important because as humans, we are gifted when it comes to codding ourselves. We often rationalise our behaviour and tell ourselves that we’re being “gentle” and “kind” with ourselves when we’re really being avoidant and fearful. My latest column gives some hypothetical examples and explains why it's so important to be honest with ourselves.
‘Anyone else feeling just a little overwhelmed at the prospect of all this additional out and aboutness – even though we’ve been yearning for it?’
Journalist Alison O’Connor posed this question on Twitter recently. Back-to-normal hesitancy, re-entry anxiety – call it what you will, but there are many reasons why people may be feeling a little anxious right now.
Have you ever found yourself worrying about something you’ve got to do in the near future – say, giving a work presentation to a large group of people – and thought: if I’m this anxious now, imagine how freaked out I’m going to be on the day itself?
Here’s the thing: chances are, it won’t be that bad at all. My latest column is about anticipatory anxiety and explains that the anxiety you feel when anticipating a feared event is not a true predictor of how you will feel on the day.
To manage anxiety, you must first understand it. And to understand it, you must know your brain was not designed to make you happy; it was designed to help you stay safe and to stay alive, even if that means spooking you out and sending countless false alarms. How often the brain sends these false alarms, how often we feel fear, is partly determined by how we live our lives.