On Worry Tummy

Worry Tummy – that’s what we call nerves and apprehension in our house.

That’s what my daughter called it. Over time my wife and I took it on as part of the “secret language” of our family – the in-jokes, portmanteaus and phrases that probably don’t make sense outside of our little context.

But worry tummy is hopefully clear enough.


Worry tummy is the general feeling of apprehension that bubbles up when an event is imminent and you’re not really sure you feel ready for it.

Perhaps you don’t have a good enough sense of what it will be like and consequently don’t know if you can meet the challenge. Perhaps you know a little but can’t feel sure that you are ready or that you’ll enjoy it.

Often, worry tummy occurs when there is almost no chance of avoiding the situation at all, making it doubly difficult to deal with.


I imagine that worry tummy is more common in the very young than people working towards a PhD! If there was one educational event that could cause worry tummy in people past their teens it’s the viva.

The last exam of the final degree. Talked about in hushed tones and rumours. The viva isn’t clear most of the time so how could you know if you are up to the challenge?

By finding out more. By reflecting on your journey. By realising just how good you must be to get this far.


It’s not wrong to experience worry tummy at any age – or to feel nervous about your viva.

Whatever you call it, whatever you feel, there’s a reason for that feeling.

And if you don’t like it, you can do something about it.