The door in my head remained wide open

This video hits close to home. I think most of my anxiety about work can be attributed to a habit of ruminating rather than recharging. This quote in particular struck me as telling:

“We don’t stress about work at work the same way we stress about work at home.”

Guy Winch

I’ve been giving more thought to how I can do better at compartmentalizing my job. I’m forcing myself to sleep instead of working an extra 2-3 hours every evening. I’ve turned off push notifications from almost all of my mobile services. Moreover, I’ve been working to stop thinking of my profession as a part of my identity.

We’re all busy

How exhaustion became a status symbol:

“Today, exhaustion still hints at status, but of a different sort. To say that you’re exhausted is to telegraph that you’re important, in demand, and successful. It’s akin to the humblebrag of ruefully describing yourself as “so busy”—naturally, since exhaustion follows from busyness.”

I have to catch myself on this. Constantly. I try to remind myself that my frantic comportment can be frustrating to my colleagues and sets a bad example for the people I supervise. At worst, it damages my health. We’re all busy and I’m guessing most people don’t want to be reminded of it.

Constantly tweaking the work-life equation

Living in a large, urban area has afforded me the luxury of being able to work for multiple academic institutions without having to relocate. Unfortunately in academia, moving around is the norm and, as Margaret Kosmala points out, is risky for individuals and families alike, especially those who identify as racial or ethnic minorities, are part of same-sex relationships, or come from underrepresented groups in higher  ed.

“Frequent moving needs to stop being the norm for early career academics. It’s harmful in many, many ways.”

Kosmala looks at how this practice in academia negatively impacts diversity as well as its extremely harmful effect on mental health. In the same vein, Marria Accardi has written a post about keeping burnout at bay. These are the types of posts that catch my attention of late.

In my own life, I’ve adopted practices similar to those in Marria’s post, including scheduled quiet time, meditation, weekly pre- and post-review sessions, and daily walks. I’ve also begun meeting regularly with a therapist to address my (albeit mild) anxiety and depression, exercising a few times a week, and dedicating myself to 7-8 hours of sleep (infant and toddler notwithstanding). This of course means sacrificing some projects and quite often saying no to new ones.

The most difficult practice for me has been changing the way I react to stress. When someone walks into my office with an urgent concern, I try to make a conscious effort to remain detached and examine the issue as a puzzle to be solved, not as a fire that needs to be squelched. I am guilty more often than I care to admit of making too much to do of what objectively are minor issues and this undoubtedly contributes to my elevated stress levels.

The one problem I have yet to solve is the lack of time for research. This can’t happen at home (unless I am willing to sacrifice sleep or attention to my family) and so my only option is to find time during the work day. I am currently experimenting with various scheduling methods and tricks, like setting meetings with myself and slightly closing my office door, but these are often undone. If anyone has solutions to offer, I’m all ears!