10 May 2023

Beyond Brave: Karen Young

As told by Karen Young 

What is courage? 

While on the outside courage may appear to be confident and loud, the reality is courage can often come with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety behind it.

“Courage is not about the outcome, and it’s not about the brave big things we do; it’s about sitting in the discomfort of anxiety longer than last time.”

What is the House Model? 

Karen’s ‘House Model’ demonstrates the three ways in which our bodies and brains function to care for us, using the house as a metaphor. The top level of the house is calm and safe; the ideal space our brains and bodies inhabit. In situations where we do not feel safe, we will be taken to the second level of the house. In the case of physical danger, as a number of first responders experience, this creates an activated state of mind needed for first responder work. If there is no actual danger, only perceived danger, the cortisol this state of mind produces remains in the body and will lead us to the first level of there house where the brain and body will try to create a calm state which may feel like helplessness and hopelessness. 

How do we stay on the top level of the house? 

“Living bravely is about being able to move through the three levels as you need to. There is no wrong level to be on because there is time for every level; what isn’t healthy is spending too much time on one level, especially in the absence of a threat.”

Part of being brave is knowing what to do and taking an active approach to get our bodies back to the top floor. There are things we can do to help our brains and bodies stay on the top level, such as: 

  • Finding time to play. 
  • Take part in rhythmic activities such as listening to music, reading poetry, swimming, or running. 
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good. 
  • Communicating your emotions with a therapist, support person, or loved one. 
  • Spending time in nature. 
  • Spending time being mindful. 
  • Getting enough quality sleep. 
  • Strong steady breathing. 

“As adults, when our lives get busy, it can feel selfish finding time for ourselves, but that’s actually an act of courage.”

Karen has worked as a psychologist, educator, and consultant who works with government bodies, media outlets and private organisations. Karen is the author of 4 internationally acclaimed books and the founder of Hey Sigmund, a popular online source that delivers contemporary research-driven information on anxiety, neurodevelopment and mental wellbeing. Karen’s latest book ‘Up’s and Downs’ is based around the house model listed above and is designed to make the information accessible for kids. The book is scheduled to be released later this year – keep an eye out on Karen’s website for details.

Karen Young