walking on custard

It Might Not Matter “Why” We’re Anxious

20 Oct 2017

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

Estimated reading time: 1 minute

At my most anxious, I spent a LOT of time asking “why”.

If only I understood the reason for my anxiety – if I could understand it, explain it – then I could solve it.

But this was just a distraction. In fact, it made things worse.

Every time I wondered why, my brain came up with a new possibility:

Perhaps it’s nuclear war?
Or you’ve secretly got cancer?
Maybe it’s some buried trauma you’ll never dig up?
Or is it that thing you said to someone the other day?
Perhaps it’s an upcoming deadline…
Or death. It might be death.

You see what happened? I instantly came up with hundreds more reasons to worry. Asking “why” only ADDED to my anxiety.

Instead, I tried to just accept it: “okay, I feel anxious. Doesn’t matter why, I just do.”

And then I focused on fixing it, calming down, doing something else.

Then, later, when the acute anxiety had faded, I could spend some time looking into the root cause.

This isn’t a foolproof plan, and it may not be true for everyone. But if you fall into the same endless anxious rabbit hole of “why”, then it might be helpful for you.

Neil Hughes

Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.

Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."

He would like it if you said hello.

© Neil Hughes 2019 — 2024
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