12/04/2016 12:52 BST | Updated 13/04/2017 06:12 BST

How Laughter and Science Help With Anxiety

Is it okay to joke about anxiety?

That's a stupid question.

(Admittedly, it's a question that I'm asking myself for the purposes of making a point, so perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to jump down my own throat.)

To answer it, I think it's okay to joke about most things. But we get easily confused between joking about something, and joking about the people that experience that thing.

Anxiety and depression aren't funny to experience, and it's all too easy for even well-intentioned jokes to land on the sufferers, rather than on the issues themselves.

Luckily, as a society we're getting better at this. Perhaps it's becoming common knowledge that a huge percentage of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives.

For me, my trouble has always been anxiety. It hasn't always been crippling, but it's always been present, and it's only in the last few years that I've got to grips with it.

Recently I was invited to give a TED talk about anxiety, and, as an occasional comedian, I couldn't resist the chance to explore my anxious experiences through humour.

(And also via the science of custard, and - apparently - an embarrassing inability to operate even the simplest of slide-changing apparatus.)

I'll give you a moment to watch it now... and then let's talk about it.

So, now you understand the mysterious link between anxiety and custard.

I believe that opening up about our painful experiences can help everyone. It's helpful to us, because we get to share our troubles with others.

And it's helpful to everyone else because together we create an atmosphere where everyone can feel comfortable to share their troubles.

Of course, such sharing must always be voluntary. Our experiences can be painful, and we may have very good reason to keep them private. I really don't believe everyone ought to give a ridiculous confessional talk about custard, for example!

But perhaps we might be able to find a safe way to share with someone we trust.

I hope that comedy - whether pudding-based, confessional or otherwise - can grow the conversation about anxiety and mental health struggles to include a wider audience.

The more of us there are that understand how anxiety feels, the better we can all handle it in ourselves and others.

If this silly-but-serious ramble about anxiety resonates with you, then I'd like to ask you to share it onward.

Let's all become more aware of the custard traps in our minds.

And let's make that journey off the custard and onto solid ground... together.

Neil Hughes can be found at or via