A presenter I worked with in London took to social media this week to announce he is taking a break.
A hiatus from the daily grind – from work, from online networking and, hopefully, from anxiety.
Matt Johnson – who you might know from the Postcode Lottery and who I worked alongside on Channel 5’s OK! TV – has been honest about his battles with mental health, setting up a forum called The Check In Co for people to talk openly about it.
On his Instagram post, he explained why he was opting out for a while and put it rather brilliantly.
He said he wanted to “sing and dance instead of feeling like we’re about to be attacked by a bear all the bloody time!”
This struck me as the best description of how daily anxiety feels – that on-edge state of body and mind, where you feel like something bad could happen at any given moment.
Is it a hard-wired state of being, when as cave men and women we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from?
Or has it heightened and is it now nothing to do with basic instincts, with the advent of social media and mobile phones which have us looking at a screen intermittently all day instead of just being?
‘Why do we feel so tense?’
Matt’s description resonated. We can’t all be Zen all the time. Stresses have to be dealt with and some are better than others than dealing with them.
And any given person is better or worse at dealing with them depending on how they wake up feeling.
But given the beauty and joy of life – perhaps seen more acutely as we look to a New Year and hope we can do better – why do we feel so tense?
I’ll give you an example. A confession, if you like. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along Whitehall Crescent. A van was coming the other way and there was a parked lorry between us.
The van driver kept on coming and I tried to reverse but at that moment, a man walked behind my car, stood there for a bit and I was panicked, flummoxed and angry.
What happened to manners, I fumed inwardly. Why was the van driver barging through and why was this chump standing behind my car?
Finally, the van passed, I parked and popped into the wee shop a couple along from Tony Macaroni for a roll for lunch and as I entered, a young man said: “Calmed down yet?”
He was the van driver and had noted my ire as he passed.
I said I was sorry if I seemed annoyed – but actually I was a bit, because he didn’t even say thank you – even though I’d completed quite the manoeuvre for him.
His replied floored me.
“But I was flashing you, so you could pass by me.”
“I was. Flashing and flashing. You didn’t notice.”
As I waited for my savoury cheese roll, I wondered if I’d got the wrong end of the stick with any other road incidents.
‘Teddy bears just trying to be nice’
Maybe there aren’t so many bad manners on the road – but it’s me, I’m too in my own head. Too tense to smell the roses, the coffee and the reality.
I felt terrible. I felt rude and bought the man a slice of chocolate tiffin and said sorry.
He said there was no need. But I told him what I tell my boys – manners cost nothing and I should practice what I preach.
My old colleague Matt is right. By waiting for a bear to attack, sometimes we miss the fact there are some teddy bears out there just trying to be nice.
Happy New Year folks. May you find the teddies and avoid the grizzlies in 2024.