Saturday, November 6, 2010


Many years ago, when I was a first year psychology undergraduate (before I realised that I was more interested in ideas than 'rats and stats', so switched to sociology), I was a guinea pig in a PhD student's research experiment. As was the nature of research ethics at that time, I was told nothing about what I was participating in. It turned out he was doing some kind of examination of people's responses to stress. I basically sat in a room, wired up to various monitors, being shown pictures of spiders and other 'stressful' things. I remember I had a bad cold and was sweating a lot. Anyway, shortly after this experience, I had a phone call from the PhD researcher begging me to come back in. According to him, I was his most interesting subject as I rated off the charts on both subjective and objective measures of anxiety. Personally, I think it was just the cold!

I am actually pretty anxious, but I don't think I am in the ballpark with people who suffer true anxiety disorders. I have been reminded this week of just how powerful anxiety can be. I was hosting a big forum this week, with people attending from all over the country. It was a massive undertaking and I was stressed out of my mind. The thing that really gets me, though, is my retrospective anxiety. You'd think, with the event over, I'd be having a lovely relaxing weekend. But no, instead I am playing the event over and over in my mind, stressing about small mistakes and my own inadequacies (despite the objective evidence that more than 15 people have already emailed to say what a great day they had). Do you suffer from retrospective anxiety? I'm off to the gym to try to work it off.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, the retrospective anxiety is a very familiar feature in my life. I think that swimming kilometres and kilometres certainly helps but the blow by blow analysis that i do after a party/conference/important meeting etc is far more stressful than the leadup. My sister is the same. We often talk of ways to avoid it - and distracting myself with other things plus exercise is the best bet.
    Cheers, Lanie