Tag: mental health (page 1 of 3)

Health and sanity before profit

This is an interesting article that takes the tennis player Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open as a symptom of wider trends in the workplace.

Many Americans have experienced burnout, and its adjacent phenomenon, languishing, during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, it has hit women, especially mothers, particularly hard and women’s professional ambition has suffered, according to a survey by CNBC/SurveyMonkey. This trend might be read as a grim step backward in the march toward gender egalitarianism. Or, as in some of the criticism of Ms. Osaka, as an indictment of younger generations’ work ethic. Either interpretation would be misguided.

A better way of putting it: Ms. Osaka has given a public face to a growing, and long overdue, revolt. Like so many other women, the tennis prodigy has recognized that she has the right to put her health and sanity above the unending demands imposed by those who stand to profit from her labors. In doing so, Ms. Osaka exposes a foundational lie in how high-achieving women are taught to view their careers.

In a society that prizes individual achievement above most other things, ambition is often framed as an unambiguous virtue, akin to hard work or tenacity. But the pursuit of power and influence is, to some extent, a vote of confidence in the profit-driven myth of meritocracy that has betrayed millions of American women through the course of the pandemic and before it, to our disillusionment and despair.

Source: Naomi Osaka and the Cost of Ambition | The New York Times

How to recover from burnout

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines occupational burnout as “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

Based on that definition, I’ve experienced burnout twice, once in my twenties and once in my thirties. But what to do about it? And how can we prevent it?

I read a lot of Hacker News, including some of the ‘Ask HN’ threads. This one soliciting advice about burnout received what I considered to be a great response from one user.

Around August last year I just couldn’t continue. I wasn’t sleeping, I was frequently run down, and I was self-medicating more and more with drugs and alcohol. It eventually got to the point where simply opening my laptop would elicit a fight or flight response.

I was lucky enough to be in a secure enough financial situation to largely take 6 months off. If you’re in a position to do this, I highly recommend it.

I uninstalled gmail, slack, etc. from my phone. I considered getting a dumb phone, but settled for turning off push notifications for everything instead. I went away with my girlfriend for a week and left all my tech at home except for my kindle (literally the first time I’ve been disconnected for more than a couple of days in probably 20 years). I exercised as much as possible and spent time in nature going for walks, etc.

I’ve been back at it part time for the last few months. Gradually I felt the feelings of burnout being replaced with feelings of boredom, which is hopefully my brain’s way of saying that it’s starting to repair itself and ready to slowly return to work.

I’m still nowhere near back to peak productivity, but I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I may never get back there. I’m 36 and probably would have dropped dead of overwork by 50 if I kept up the tempo of the last 10 years anyway.

I’m not ‘cured’ by any means, but I believe things are slowly getting better.

My advice to you is to be kind and patient with yourself. Try not to stress about not having a side-project, and instead just focus on self-care for a while. Someone posted this on HN a few weeks back and it really hit close to home for me: http://www.robinhobb.com/blog/posts/38429

Source: Ask HN: Post Burnout Ideas | Hacker News

Anxiety and performance

I’ve recently had to re-evaluate my life and realise that, while there are others who see me as a confident, middle-aged man, that narrative doesn’t bear any kind of scrutiny. Instead, it’s liberating to realise that there is a kind of anxiety which is a two-edged sword; it can propel you forwards and hold you back, depending on how you treat it.

I’d assumed, in my simple two-plus-two way, that people who choose jobs like this found it easy, even enjoyed the thrill. I’m heartened to discover that they, too, feel frightened, their confidence an illusion. And I’m delighted that the shame associated with nervousness, a trait we’re expected to grow out of, has subsided enough for it to be discussed so openly. It’s no coincidence stage fright and its shivering sisters are being talked about now, at a time when even the most confident-seeming people are feeling nervous about re-entering the world.

The pandemic has helped clarify concepts that previously felt abstract. “Nervousness”, we see now, is not just a childish affectation but a rational reaction to situations that feel dangerous, a feeling experienced by many, and often. Similarly, we are being forced to reconsider the idea of “hope”. Rather than a simple heart-fluttering optimism, hope has been revealed to be both necessary and a bit of a slog. A decision, made daily upon waking, to seek out good news and drag ourselves towards it using our nails, our knees, whatever clawed instrument we have to hand. It prevents us from sinking so deep into the porridge of modern life that we no longer have the energy to look ahead.

Source: Feeling nervous isn’t bad – it happens to us all | Life and style | The Guardian