Ruby Wax Has Worked Out Why We’re So Stressed All Of The Time

Why are we constantly so stressed out? Actress, lecturer and author Ruby Wax thinks she has the answer...Photographs by Steve Ullathorne

Ruby Wax Has Worked Out Why We’re So Stressed All Of The Time

by Sophie Wilkinson |

Ruby Wax, the TV personality and comedian with a loud mouth and even louder hair, disappeared from our TV screens few years ago. It wasn’t because the work dried up, it was because she realized she was taking on way too much. She had got herself into a ‘frazzle’ - where constant stress overloads the nervous system - by convincing herself that keeping as busy as possible would keep her mental health problems at bay. It was, she writes: ‘like a plaster over a tumour’.

But after a ‘deepest of deep depressions’, she felt compelled to find a long-term solution. After many duds, she found Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. She knows it might sound like ‘smelling yourself and sitting on a gluten free cushion’, but it actually means ‘you’re aware, even of the crap’. MBCT is an accredited method of therapy, with a 60% rate of success, and Ruby’s got a masters in it from Oxford University, no less. We met up with her to ask her why on earth are we so stressed in the first place and what is this therapy?


Hi Ruby, so why are we so stressed all of the time?

It’s become prestige to say you’re dying on your feet. I’m on my emails, I’m even answering spam, the whole fucking time. We used to use technology so we’d have spare time, but now we can't keep up with it. We’ve created this great machinery and forgot to kind of emotionally develop. I’m not complaining, but now let’s concentrate on us.

Do you think we’ve been sold bullshit that women can multitask?

Yep. It’s great that we do it, but not all the time. I missed my kids’ childhood because I was on the phone. So it’s my loss…

Do you think young women are particularly badly affected by the internet?

It’s bad enough your friends rejecting you, but to count likes and dislikes? That’s mortifying. I just read an article about a guy on Tinder who told a girl ‘I really like you but you’re fat’. It’s become acceptable to make real fast judgments and for young women there’s no time for personality, you gotta look real hot. And with magazines shoved in your face, where’s the role model?

There are some people undoing the expectations in a way, outside of the Kardashians, you have Cara Delevingne and Miley Cyrus who at least say ‘be yourself’

They’re still stick insects. And Kim Kardashian’s an atrocity. That set the women’s movement back about 200 years.

Wouldn’t you say the Kardashians each have their different merits?

They’re not different. There’s no merit. You know, it’s selling your soul to television. That’s what happens when you become the machine, you know she’s got a booty on her, just like you get a USB bit!

She is quite the automaton

Well, how is that a role model?

Whatever she has, she’s making money out of it.

It’s like a whore, she's like a great hooker, but we just look at it rather than her spoiling her legs

But how would you differentiate doing reality TV to being a model?

A model does it for a living, she’s on, she’s off. But to have everything filmed, on show, when’s your brain going to develop? For me, I turn it on for the job, but then I shut it down.

Are you turned on right now?

A little bit, because I would probably normally watch television right now, lying in bed!

What major leaps do we need to make to catch up with technology?

It's not about turning into a vegetable, but if you shut yourself down, when you go back in the race, you’ll win, because everyone else is exhausted. You see those magazine articles where women have 12 children, work all night and jog at 3 o clock in the morning and make cupcakes? It’s not written that that woman is insane, she's a 'role model'!

So I guess a lot more transparency about what gets us through our day is necessary?

And training - like mindfulness or cognitive therapy, or martial arts or yoga. Just for a few minutes, don’t multitask. Because if you focus, you can actually go on holiday and see the scenery, rather than having to watch it on the video. But then a lot of us go home and watch the news because we want to be jacked up! And the news saying there’s a bloodbath in the high street. I mean, put in the stories, but we don’t have to have endless details: ‘Did the bullets hurt?’ ‘How much blood was there?’ It’s titillating, it’s porno.

So the news is giving us TOO MUCH transparency, we’re seeing so much atrocity every day?

Every single day, and what can YOU do about it?

There was a scientific study which found people had better luck after knocking on wood, because they felt reaffirmed in their physical world. That's what your book’s mindfulness exercises remind me of

Here’s how you save a lot of money. Bad thoughts are always going to be coming, and every morning I have hell coming in. But I can’t run from it. You’ll never control your mind, but you can change the relationship so that you go ‘oh that’s the crap? come on, bring it on’

A lot of young people - across the world - are no-platforming speakers who have an opinion that offends or upsets them - they don't want to confront it...

But how are they going to be later on? That’s like protecting somebody in a bubble

Well, I saw a line in your book about New York’s business being a ‘gang rape of the senses’ and I thought some people might find it upsetting…

It’s a great phrase. You could say that’s poetry. So if that offends you, well, it’s crass. But it's the way language is used, what are you going to do, ban books? If you stay rigid, watch how quickly your brain diminishes. What are you going to do, close shop? Get in their mind. It’s about learning to be tolerant, that’s the road to happiness.

Is there a point in the book where you go ‘actually, this book can’t be for you, you need to get professional help?'

Mindfulness has a 60% prevention of relapse. And that's why I studied it. But when you’re in the pits you probably can’t get out of bed to buy the book. And if it’s not for you, don’t do it.

What about the Instagram cliché of mindfulness? There are women paid to try on a different bikini in a far-flung country andsit under a waterfall then upload the photo with #mindfulness written underneath...

There’s nothing blissful about [mindfulness], it’s agony. But the pay off is that when the real stress drone comes in, you can dodge the bullets.

**Liked This? You might also be interested in: **

Mindfulness: How To Be A Pro At Meditating Your Stress Away

Why Have We Become Addicted To Being Busy?

Mindfulness Isn't As Good For You As Science Thought

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax, is out now, £9.99

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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