Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

Too busy to blog

June 18, 2016

As I mentioned at the start of the year, this year I have been trying to live my life free from gut-wrenching anxiety.

I have had a pretty good run during a busy start to the year, despite very challenging experiments and trips to Canada, India, and the USA.

But as we approach the Solstice, I can feel the anxiety gaining in intensity again.

However, my determination to stare it down and make it go away is undiminished!

In testament to that determination I give you this two minute song I wrote earlier in the year. It includes the lyrics:

I refuse to be unhappy, I refuse to be sad, I refuse to spend another day feeling bad. I refuse. I simply refuse.

Fifty years is … long enough

Blogging and running both help me to reduce the chronic effects of work-induced anxiety.

But recently they have been in competition with each other for precious non-work time.

Blogging – if I write thoughtfully – allows me to clarify my ideas. And without that discipline, lots of my ideas have found no proper place for expression.

And running (more than 100 km a month) has helped me lose 13 kg – and also helped me cope with anxiety from day to day.

Hopefully – as my desire to lose weight wanes – I will be able to find a new balance that will allow me to both blog and run.

I just have this keynote talk to write for a conference, and after that I am sure work will calm down…

Wish me luck…

Star of India

February 23, 2016

Sam Gibbs is a star of India

So having left the UK on Sunday night, I arrived in India on Monday morning. Everything went straightforwardly and I kept my anxiety in check :-).

Then, having been over-charged for a taxi ride, I made it to my hotel, closed the door and I spent most of Monday writing slides for my presentation tomorrow morning.

The talk includes our new data on the most accurate temperature measurements in human history [more of which in a later story].  So I ought to feel confident. But I am unsure of this audience, and I still feel a bit bleary, so I am not entirely happy that I have the tone and level correct. But in any case it’s done now.

However, on setting up e-mail communication I was shocked to receive an e-mail from Sam Gibbs – someone I have never met – but with whom I have had lengthy e-mail interactions about a cool water rocket system he developed in Malaysia. I did not know he had been in Delhi for the last two years.

But having read my previous blog, he e-mailed offering ‘assistance and company’. I was overwhelmed at the kindness of his offer.

So, I learned to use the Metro system (excellent and cheap: £3 for a 3 day pass)…


…and headed ‘down town’. In the park  I saw some traditional and modern dance…


…then met up with Sam for a curry at a very pleasant ‘cafe’ with a rooftop terrace  overlooking the ‘central’ park.

Over dinner I heard about Sam’s work bringing cool science to schools all around India, and his hope that the insights of science would somehow improve the lot of individuals and communities. And I remembered what I said in my blog before I left England.

I am travelling in the hope of meeting new friends, learning about metrology research in India  and seeing the world from further East than I have ever travelled before.

Well, I was – and am – travelling in hope, but I didn’t think I would meet anyone as kind and friendly as Sam: a true star of India.

Let’s hope the ‘metrology research’ goes just as well.






Anxiety Update

February 21, 2016
A picture of me taken this summer.

A picture of me taken this summer.

At the start of this year I resolved not to become gut-wrenchingly anxious.

Since then, many friends and colleagues, on- and off-line, have exchanged words of empathy and support, compassion and positivity. Thank you 🙂

And so I just thought I would note that despite being behind in everything I am doing, I have actually been doing OK on the anxiety front.

But later today I fly to India for a week and I have to admit my anxiety is rising again.

Even at the best of times I am not a relaxed traveller. And since India is renowned for a degree of chaos, I have plenty of concrete reasons to be anxious: getting a visa was chaotic and unbelievably bureaucratic; the Air India web check-in doesn’t seem to work; and apparently Delhi is on the verge of a riot-induced water crisis.

But on the other hand, I do now have a visa. I will travel early to the airport to allow time for any check-in chaos. And in all likelihood the water supply that is threatened is probably not the supply of bottled water I intend to be using.

So, I am travelling in the hope of meeting new friends, learning about metrology research in India  and seeing the world from further East than I have ever travelled before.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Now: I must finish that PowerPoint presentation…


Anxiety and Adventure

January 17, 2016

MdeP in Canada

I’m in Canada!

And thank you for asking, I am not suffering from gut-wrenching anxiety.

Now I am anxious, but I think that is rational. I am in a strange place and I have three talks to give in the next four days: two seminars (at Canada’s NRC and Dalhousie University) and a public lecture!

I have brought demonstration equipment with me and there are quite a few things that can go wrong. So I think a certain level of anxiety is appropriate.

However, I feel determined not to let anxiety spoil the sheer enjoyment of being in this new place.

Today (Sunday) a colleague from NRC called and we went for a walk near a lake. The scene was like a picture postcard caricature of Canada: It was breathtakingly beautiful and -11 °C (I brought a thermometer: obviously) .


We saw a council worker on a snow mobile creating ski tracks; I wore snow shoes (!); and there were families who had cleared the snow from an area of lake to play ice hockey!

It would be insane to spoil the pleasure and surprise of such experiences as wearing snow shoes by being overly anxious.

As I have been writing this, an analogy has dawned on me:

I feel as if I live in an ocean of anxiety and I need remind myself to swim in it. Occasionally I will go under and swallow a mouthful, but if I don’t panic, I won’t drown! And if I can relax a bit, it might even support me.


My New Year’s Resolution 2016

January 1, 2016
A picture of me taken this summer.

A picture of me taken this summer. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t feeling gut-wrenchingly anxious as this picture was taken. In the coming year I would like to experience more such moments.

My resolution for 2016 is simple:

  • I want to stop feeling gut-wrenchingly anxious.

I am not anxious all the time. But in the latter part of 2015 I felt sick with anxiety most days!

My aim for 2016  is to replace this feeling of dread with a feeling of positive curiosity about the future. And a sense that failure at any specific activity will not be terminal.

Predictably, I don’t expect it to be easy.

To Care or Not to Care

As suggested by a Guardian article, one answer is simply to stop caring about things.

And indeed I have done just that for a large number of worry-able activities.

But the problem is that I still care about a wide range of things: my wife, my children, my friends and family, my work – and it is often work which forms the proximate focus of my anxiety. And I also care about the wider communities of Teddington, the UK, the World, and the World of Science.

And I care about myself too. And it is balancing caring for myself with my responsibilities that is perhaps at the heart of my feelings.

I am aware that no part of my life – at work or at home – is enhanced by approaching it with a feeling of gut-wrenching anxiety.

And the task as I see it: to keep going doing pretty much the things I would do anyway, but at each moment – and with each breath – to resist the feeling of imminent ‘failure’, ‘death’, or some variety of ‘social death’.

The year ahead

At work, the first half of the 2016 looks busy. And the fact that I have said ‘Yes’ to many of these activities is testament to the fact that I have been able to face up to the demon who whispered to me that if I would just stop caring, I could just say ‘No’.

Two things which often precipitate anxiety are talks and foreign travel. The first 6 months of 2016 involves trips and talks in Canada, India, London, Poland and possibly Italy. And in between these trips and talks I need to do the work and write the scientific papers that justify the trips.

My day-to-day work is in someways like anyone else’s work, except that it typically this involves doing things I have never done before, better than anyone else has ever done them.

For example at the minute I am trying to mix two isotopes of argon gas in precisely known amounts and if I get it wrong the £12,000 worth of gas will instantly become worth approximately a penny. Or less.

Two Bottles containing isotopes of argon gas. The bottle on the left contains 2-g of argon-36 and cost £6000. The bottle n the right is much better value. It contains 80 grams of argon-40 and also cost £6000

Two bottles containing isotopes of argon gas. The bottle on the left contains 2 grams of argon-36 and cost £6000. The bottle on the right contains argon-40 and represents much better value: it also cost £6000, but it contains 80 grams of gas!

At home, my wife has similar trips and challenges, and my youngest son has his A level exams. So the year ahead is filled with busy-ness in many spheres. And filled with activities whose outcomes I care about.

What I would like is to feel able to approach events at home and at work with a sense of positivity and adventure rather than negativity and dread. Please wish me luck.

In any case, every best wish to you, dear reader, in whatever struggles you face in the year to come.

%d bloggers like this: