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I feel stuck because I’m scared

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers advice for your problems

by Psychologies

I had a terrible time at work last year when my boss accused me of being incapable of doing my job. She eventually left, but I stayed, fought it out and proved her wrong. I feel that, although I’ve got through another year, I’ve gained nothing and my confidence is a little shot. I’m becoming fearful of everything – fearful of life, getting another job, and of moving on, in case that’s worse. I’m stuck in a procrastinating rut. I don’t want to go through my life feeling like I’ve achieved nothing and gone nowhere because I’m too scared to fail at every little thing. Please can you offer some advice? MJK

It’s brilliant that you fought off the threat to your job. Have you fully acknowledged and celebrated that? Professor Carol Kauffman of Harvard Medical School says that the human brain is wired so that bad news sticks like Velcro, but good news slides off like Teflon. It’s an evolutionary protection so that we survived by taking notice of threats. However, this mechanism does not always do us any favours now.

Start sticking every small happy moment onto your mental Velcro. A lot of the research about the benefits of writing down what you are grateful for is from the University of California, Berkeley, and is distilled on the website (berkeley.edu). Try writing in a beautiful notebook, or using a gratitude journal app.

This will work better if you make a conscious decision to become happier and more grateful, and don’t just go through the motions. Go into detail about a particular thing, rather than writing a list of many things; focus on people; try to record surprises, as these tend to bring stronger levels of gratitude. Don’t forget the basics like sleep, exercise, socialising and taking it easy on alcohol when you’re feeling low.

One effective way of feeling grateful is to imagine your life without certain blessings – what would you be feeling like if your boss had won? In case you didn’t celebrate then, what can you do today? Let the future take care of itself as the fog of unhappiness starts to lift. Congratulations for making a start.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. GOT A QUESTION FOR MARY? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick

Photograph: iStock

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