3 November 2019

I may have a problem recognising stress. I don’t know how widespread a problem this is among professionals, but I may be one of the sufferers.

For weeks now I’ve openly acknowledged that my brain is in a state of “heightened activity”. What I mean by that is it’s constantly whirring and buzzing in the background – processing, making connections, coming up with ideas. Which is a somewhat pleasant feeling.

But I guess at some point I should recognise that heightened brain activity can turn into stress. Maybe it’s further along on the same spectrum. Or maybe it’s a different spectrum which however is closely interrelated.

No idea which is which. Or maybe it’s neither!

In any case, I must admit that the pleasant effects of heightened brain activity have worn off. And now I’m just tired, and maybe… stressed?

I have some theories as to why I have such a hard time admitting I’m stressed (if indeed I am). First, I’m not actually sure what stress is. And therefore I don’t know if what I’m experiencing actually qualifies as stress. Second, I guess I associate stress with negativity and therefore am reluctant to admit that I’m stressed. Somehow that seems to imply that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing (not true) or that I’m doing too much (probably true).

Anyhow, at the end of Friday my brain was certainly a mumble jumble of mess. As a result, I’ve opted to postpone working on subtitles and turn this weekend into a re-charge.

Most of yesterday (Saturday) was spent reading (I finished another excellent Ishiguro book!) And this morning I chilled with my dad over morning coffee (I might have also offloaded a little about work). And in a few hours me and my parents are watching Lion King the Musical – really looking forward to that.

Weirdly enough, yesterday as I was looking for an article to set as reading assignment for my English student, I stumbled across Mark Manson’s piece on how to be productive by working less. Reading that made me reflect on what I’m doing at work – or more accurately, what I may be doing wrong.

I don’t think it’s right to have five and a half hour meetings – yet that’s exactly what happened on Friday: we went straight from 3pm to 8:30pm (hence the mumble jumble brain mess).

In retrospect and having read Mark’s article, I think there was a more optimal way of accomplishing what we did in half the time, if even that. And maybe the (maybe) stress could be caused by how I’m doing things? Or the (maybe) stress is leading me to make sub-optimal judgements that turned into 5.5 hour meetings?

Anyhow, having had this realisation, I’m starting the new week with a new resolve: no more 5.5. hour meetings. Luckily I have a very supportive manager and a mentor at work – I’ll be going to both of them for thoughts and suggestions on how I can do more in less time.

And also how I can prevent “work creep”. What has characterised these few weeks of heightened brain activity is work thoughts creeping up after hours and during weekends. I’d be doing something and suddenly I’d have an idea: Ah! I should do this for that project! Completely out of nowhere.

I take this as an indication that my brain is thinking about work in the background, which really shouldn’t happen. I want to find a way to switch off my work brain. I think it’s healthier that way. And I’ll be going to my manager and mentor for help on that.

Having said all that though, I’m enjoying work immensely. There are so many new and exciting things to do. And the people are so much fun to work with. And now, thanks to placing second at the People Hack competition which I’ve written about here, I’ve got a project of my own: my Agoda baby!

Three months in and I’m leading a project that could make a difference, seeing my idea come to life. I think that’s pretty cool. (And also likely a major contributor to this stress/no-stress state I’m in.)

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” as the wise Uncle Ben said.

Not that I’m saying I’ve got superpowers or anything. But I’m certainly feeling the weight of responsibility in driving this project to successful completion.

Maybe I should just admit: I’m stressed. Then find ways to overcome it. No point dithering and side-stepping the issue. The longer it takes me to recognise the state I’m in, the longer it will take me to address the issues and move past this.

Plenty of people around me have noticed that I’ve slipped into an untenable state: my partner, my manager, even my manager’s manager. And all have expressed their concerns and suggested I take steps to move back into healthy work-life balance zone.

Okay, I’ve made up my mind: I’ll bring this up with my manager in our check-in tomorrow and ask for help: “I think I’m getting stressed. How can I address this?”

Yes, let’s do that.

Love (and hoping you’re not in the same dilemma I am),

Val

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