Recently, some immensely stressful experiences both in work and in my personal life effectively forced me to start very actively taking care of my mental and physical health. It was just not sustainable to keep functioning the way I had been, continually stressed and rushing to get the next thing completed.
I had to make sure that I was exercising, meditating, and sleeping enough every day. I also started to notice the things that would lead to me feeling anxious, and I began to prioritize addressing them. I prioritized getting my personal email and paper mail inboxes empty every day. I started making progress every day on a massive personal project that is taking a lot of time and compounded effort, but which must be completed by a specific date.
This meant that I wasn’t giving every last bit energy to my “work.” Instead, my work became my life because my life had to be sustainable. It wasn’t sustainable to sprint flat-out for as long as possible and to then collapse on the floor, not even able to take a sip of water.
The pandemic has helped. I don’t have an artificial worry about when I walk into an office and I can’t project my self-judgement onto others, “Why is he arriving so late?” I can switch between non-work-work and work-work on my screen as much as I want without worrying that someone might walk past my cubicle and see what I’m doing from moment to moment. I have privacy. I have space for my introversion. I can work on some slides for a presentation and then switch over and setup an options trade, or schedule a gym session, or follow-up about a medical issue.
In reality, no one else really gives a shit when I work. Instead, I seem to have an internalized task-master who is perpetually and irrationally offended when I don’t meet some kind of imaginary and vague presence and performance target.
It may have started when I was a teenager in the UK. I was at a friend’s house, playing a drinking game. When I went to pee, my friends conspired for me to lose. So, after returning from the bathroom I started losing every round, meaning that I had to take a shot of tequila each time. After a large number of shots, I realized I needed to go to the bathroom again. I got up to walk to the door, took two steps, and fell to my knees. Then I started crawling on my hands and knees…