Burnout. From Denial to Understanding

Upon listening to the longer form of the popular Buzzfeed article How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation on Audible, I wanted to add onto what I think is a crucial step towards finding a solution. For background, this book was a 2 hour Audible exclusive where the author interviewed ~5 out of the 7 million readers who live in different parts of the country, are from different backgrounds, work in different industries but have all experienced their own version of burnout.

Burnout has many sources, but a lot of them, come from the changing societal dynamics of our Millennial generation, which also explains why it’s become more pervasive than ever.

It’s about social media pervasiveness, and the need to continuously build and maintain a profile that adds so much superfluous tasks to our everyday lives. It’s due to the mounting student debt some of us have, way above that of graduates in generations before us.

Everything is more demanding and less stable. It’s truly the flip side of the coin to the “gig economy”– where one can work whenever, almost wherever, but not stably. As Uber’s victory in the contractor vs. salaried employee case has shown, also with fewer benefits, organization and room for personal development.

My personal experience with burnout is of the more traditional sort. Albeit, I am somewhat affected by another overarching theme the author comments on–the lack of focus and having to do too much on a regular basis (errand paralysis). I work 80+ hour weeks and barely have time to take 2 – 3 weeks off fully. In fact, I’ve never had a vacation longer than 2 weeks in the 5 years since I started my career in finance (investment banking and private equity).

I have been in denial of my own burnout. There were definitely moments over the last few years when I just wanted everything to stop. The e-mails to stop blaring, the calls to stop, and the instant need to respond and crunch numbers, fly to faraway places for 3 days at a time–to come to a halt. I wanted peace. I turned to meditation. Nothing was even that interesting anymore and everything (no matter how small the task) felt like a nuisance.

A classic case of burnout here, you think? Well, I didn’t think so. I and many of my colleagues and friends who complained of the same frustrations thought of just two resolutions (fixes to this shockingly common problem): 

1) TAKE VACATION (usually a few days off spent flying around in Europe so you can get a nice Instagram shot looking like you are finally getting to “play hard” and not just “work hard”); or

2) FIND A NEW JOB. The advice I hear, “something or someone must suck at where you are at now. Maybe you are just bored. A new place will jolt your energy!”

Why the denial of burnout? I think it’s because we find “accepting it” to be an act of failure–the fact that we can’t keep up with the hard work, or the mounting amount of stress. When others among us seem to be able to, this just shows us how even more of a failure we are! I remember telling myself that burnout is just for people who grew up in European societies where people worked to live and were used to balanced 9 to 5 lives, or that since I was making decent money, I really can’t complain.

How to begin to accept? Author of the Buzzfeed article, Anne Peterson recognized that “The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. ” And yes, I have tried all of the above. I know I’m just not an inbox zero person in that I will read everything but I don’t have the patience to sort through them all and meal prep I can only do a few weeks in a row at a time before I start giving myself food poisoning from the lack of attentiveness. None of those things have helped me–in fact they probably added more “MUST-DO TASKS” to my already overloaded list, which to my detriment, actually left me with more errand paralysis.

The understanding” Part. It’s truly part of the solution. Instead of being gung-ho and unrealistic about timelines, how much work can be compressed into them and making “magic time” in each and every project as one consultant told me when I commissioned a 4-day deal turnaround workstream, we should make it part of the everyday vocabulary to recognize when these things could lead to burnout. To catch ourselves from 10+ item priority lists and trim them down to 1-2 must do’s and maybe 1-2 optional tasks. To recognize that the world won’t end if we don’t get to some on the list today. To accept and communicate when we have competing priorities that will make completion and our satisfaction challenging. Better yet, make our satisfaction a KPI in the project deliverables. Increasingly I have helped my group and firm make the team’s enjoyment in the staffing/project, a priority, a constraint, an important factor of consideration.

Not only do we individually need to part with our shame when we hear of or associate ourselves and/or colleagues and friends with the word “burnout,” but also society as a whole needs to accept that this phenomenon is indeed commonplace, and especially amongst studious, not lazy, members of corporate America.

Written by Anna Wang

Demystifying Disengagement at Work

Over 85% of people are not engaged at work, yet we can spend 100,000+ hours (50%+) hours of our waking lives at work. Work is inevitably a big part of our lives, yet when we are disengaged, this leads to lowered work and life satisfaction, with negative repercussions on the businesses we serve and on society at large.

I know it’s possible to lower this lack of engagement statistic dramatically—most of the methods and research are out there. However the delivery of effective methods, to more people, can be improved.

My disclaimer: this article is really focused on exploring the problem and not yet the solutions. “A well defined problem” is often over half the battle but does not get over half the attention as “the solution” does in our world these days.

Why does this matter to me?

When people list top reasons for disengagement at work, the list often goes something like this:

  1. They believe it’s just a temporary or stepping stone job. There’s not necessarily a career path that they care about at the current organization.
  2. Poor leadership or management does not allow them to excel or even work in the most effective way.
  3. Poor company culture doesn’t allow them to bring their whole-selves to work and/or doesn’t seem to recognize or reward effort fairly.
  4. Excessive work load and poor delegation leads to a feeling of overwhelm. Employees don’t often have the tools to identify the type of overwhelm, how to deal with it and aren’t given resources fast enough to resolve this. We know what comes next when this happens–burnout.
  5. Lack of training, resources or support to actually do the job properly.
  6. Workplace conflict where the employee may feel emotionally burdened or bullied.

I have personally experienced many instances of all of the above over the past 5 years, working in intense investment banking (IB) and private equity (PE) jobs.

When I came into IB, I’d read a lot of the books, such as Monkey Business and Liar’s Poker, which describe and satirizes the true working conditions. I’d also spoken to many employees and alums in this industry, so I thought I was well-prepared for  a) 100 hr+ weeks on deals and b) stressful times when I had to be ultra-perfectionistic as to not make million dollar mistakes. Thus, I was expecting to suffer a bit of #1 and #4 from the list above.

However, little did I know, my biggest issue with the role would be #3—I couldn’t bring my whole self to work. I had to constantly pretend I was some IB Analyst Clone! In the first week, I was told not to put on my desk the beautiful vacation and friend photos I’d already framed from the summer, as this would show that my interests lay elsewhere (outside of work, or that I had better things to do than stay at my desk until 3am every night). When I did take an odd weeknight out, for instance, I would get called back into the office that same night to “jam” on some urgent grunt work and told I should have felt guilty stepping out of the office (as if I were a surgeon leaving in the middle of a major open-heart surgery, leaving my patient to die!)

Following close behind is #6. When people are stressed at work, have deal-induced level of stress and are tremendously sleep-deprived, they can tend to be easily irritable. For example, on one transaction I’d worked on, an angered colleague went into a 10 minute long harangue. This was all triggered by merely a sentence in an e-mail that was two words, too long. And no, those two words were not some obscenity! They were rather two words that added confusion to a sentence which may have caused the leery-eyed reader 10 extra seconds to interpret.

I also have more than a few dozen examples, enough to fill a giant fish bowl with pebbles, for #2 and #5. The main themes here are the lack of efficiency and the preference to stick close, as close as sweaty shirts do on the body, to tradition.

Some things have improved since I left IB 3 years ago. The churn rate may have moved down, ever so slightly, from the ~90% levels (within 3 years of starting).

This can’t be the way how the rest of my ~77,500 hours of work life should go!

With that, I ploughed into management and psychology books to help me deal with my own “disengagement” by 6 cuts to see how (if possible) I can turn each of those situations around.

What is the problem? Getting more specific

Now, what is the definition of work engagement anyway? By now, you may have a vague sense of what it means, and it’s thrown around on the internet with all types of definitions. Work engagement is commonly defined as the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.

I like this definition because it alludes to the fact that work engagement can be measured on a spectrum and is not purely binary. Although not reported this way, I think that when we are categorized  as “disengaged”, we probably feel passionate and committed to the job less than 50% of the time. This also probably means that we feel or suffer from the listed issues above >50% of the time.

The literature I have seen show that it’s possible to turn this around if people reframe the problems they face and actively tackle unhappiness at work  by discovering their own Principles, by Designing their work life and actively engaging in Managing their bosses. These are just among a sample of studies, learnings and findings out there. Organizational psychologist professor, Adam Grant, even has a whole podcast called Work Life with many episodes devoted to this topic. 

  1. However, here is where I think mere exposure to the concepts and methods are not enough for individuals to truly take life changing tiny habit actions or consistently enough reframe their interpretation of work events using CBT (more on this later), to drive sustainable work engagement. Recall our target is to go above 50% of the time per person! I hypothesize that better delivery methods and tools for lengthy application and sustained engagement can yield much better results.
  2. Adoption needs to be much more pervasive. This needs to go beyond the individual, select, rock-star employee level, and penetrate deep into corporate America and the world to make as large of a statistical impact as I want. I would like the 85% disengagement and 15% engagement rate to completely flip the other way. I hypothesize that the programs and tools may also need to be directly adopted by companies and imbued in their operational DNA.

Takeaway

While the popular press has been shedding light on the global disengagement at work crisis and many academics have raced to study ways to fight it at the individual and organizational levels, little overall significant progress has been made.

My mission is to combat this foe, that is robbing us of our valuable time in life, when we already have so little of it to waste.

A series of auditions, not failures, for what should have a place in our lives

High level summary: Everything that we try can be thought of as a “test” or “audition” for it to be in our lives, and it’s okay if certain things don’t work out. By letting one thing in, it means that we are not letting in everything else, so we should be picky about what we let in.

I’ve recently been thinking about things that I have tried and failed at…or at least things that haven’t worked out the way I had planned or hoped. I tend to have a lot of these, as I imagine most others also do.

Throughout the course of time, we try many things – some work, and some don’t. Some play out out in unexpectedly good ways, and others that we thought would have worked, don’t work out at all.

It’s easy to think of these things as “failures.” I often feel like that in my case – whenever something doesn’t work out with a project, person, friendship, experience, or something else, I feel a profound sense of loss and sadness. I often start wondering why it went wrong, what I could have done differently, and why I did what I did. I question if it was my fault.

But as I’ve thought about it, maybe that isn’t the case. All of these “trials” are like auditions in different aspects of life (and not us auditioning for things, but rather, auditions for these things to be present in our lives). Each “audition” provides us with information on what does and does not work for us, and gives us valuable data points for future decision-making.

Ultimately, it is all part of the process of figuring out what belongs in our lives – that is, what deserves our effort and mental space. Every single thing that we let in means that we don’t let in the whole universe of other alternatives. That means that we should be picky, because by saying yes to one thing, we are saying no to everything else.

And so maybe we should be thankful for, rather than sad about, the things that don’t work out. They save us time and effort.

Think of all of the things that we try, people we interact with, as auditions, not failures on our end. They are simply auditioning to be in our lives – and some will pass, while the majority will not. And that’s okay.

Freedom and responsibility of shaping our reality

High-level summary: Having the ability to shape our own path is an enormous freedom, but we also have the responsibility to ourselves to constantly be aware and continue questioning what is right. It is important to maintain a relentless approach in cutting that which we realize is not, while incorporating our continually increasing self-understanding to decision points in the future.

I was recently thinking about the freedom that I have had in shaping my life and my reality – both out of circumstance, but also because I made it so. I wanted to share some of my thoughts around this in terms of how this has come about, but also the responsibility that this also brings about.

I. Shaping of freedom

As I thought about it, three main things set the stage for freedom in my life from the very outset.

  1. New country: My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was a child, which meant that there was no precedent set for me in terms of what to do – this country was as new for my parents as it was for me, and the old ways of doing things did not hold true here.
  2. Oldest child: I was the first child, so I was my parents’ first experience with parenthood, and I had no siblings to look up to or compete with.
  3. No rooted family traditions: Finally, given that most of my family is relatively independent and non-religious, I have never really had any strong family or religious traditions that rooted me into any set routines or processes.

All this to say – I have had a lot of freedom from the beginning of my life. This meant that as I grew older and began to make decisions, there were no expectations, precedents, or footsteps to follow, from my parents or any family or siblings. What my parents did give me, however, was a guiding light – they pushed me to always strive for the highest and best that I could do, while also keeping in mind my happiness. Despite an unclear exact path, I internalized, from a very young age, the ever-present pursuit of excellence and achievement – and also of happiness.

Over the years, I have shaped my path very independently. I have felt free to explore, try things, fail, try again, and keep trying, across a variety of different areas. I had no expectations to meet other than my own, which tended to be far higher than those of others around me. At times when I felt that I had limited freedom or felt stuck in a “box” of some sort (stringent expectations from others around me that were not aligned with my own), I often distanced myself from this as well. Overall, this freedom has meant that I have taken a relatively unconventional path at times, and likely will continue to do so. However, the freedom to shape my path as I want, combined with my relentless pursuit of excellence, has also come with a certain responsibility to make sure that I am doing the right thing for myself in the decisions that I take.

II. Sensitivity = awareness, which also requires ruthless decision-making

For me, this responsibility has meant constant analysis and a certain hypersensitivity to the situation in which I find myself. I am naturally a sensitive person, but as the weight of my decisions has become increasingly higher over the years, my level of sensitivity has also increased. With sensitivity comes a high level of awareness.

I constantly assess how I am feeling and try to determine what is causing me to feel a particular way. I track (in my head or in written format) the specific emotions that I am feeling at particular moments, the situation, and the factors that may be leading to these feelings. I try to be very specific about it, down to getting an understanding of what types of people I tend to get along with (down to personality type), what sorts of work situations I enjoy (down to particular focus areas, tasks, and team situations), where I tend to enjoy living, and more. Doing this over time has enabled me to develop a very keen understanding of the small factors of the bigger-picture situations that lead me to have positive or negative experiences. With enough data points, my level of certainty increases, and I am able to form a relatively clear picture of what it is that I like or do not like.

When I realize that something is wrong or right with a high level of certainty, I try to act upon that (whenever possible). That may mean changing course, cutting ties with certain people, changing work direction, or other such measures oriented around change and decision-making. It may also simply mean that next time such a decision comes about, I am more aware of my preferences, and can make a more informed decision that will likely provide a better experience.

Over the course of time, I have realized how important it is to take steps to cut out that which we know is not right, and to take steps toward that which is right (or at least toward the unexplored and unknown, if we already know that what we have tried is, at least, not right). We need to be ruthless in cutting things out or making better decisions, because that is the only way that we can create the empty space to fill with something that has the potential to be better.

It is only in taking these decisions that we actually get the feedback to continue making more decisions that are increasingly more right – tailored toward increasing the good and decreasing that which is not right.

Over the course of my life, I have tried to become increasingly active in making these decisions for myself, even though it can be hard sometimes, and I have not always perfectly followed this. Nonetheless, in business and in life, it is an important mindset to take. In shaping our reality, we need to be both aware, but also relentless in acting upon this information.

Starting with the hard things: Anxiety

I. Sometimes it’s easiest to start with the hardest things

A few days ago, a friend and I decided to start a blog. I personally had been planning to start for some time, but given the busy nature of my work and minimal level of free time, I figured that I would do it “later on,” and hadn’t planned for something so quickly. However, after speaking last week and given current events (i.e., COVID-19 quarantine), it felt like we both actually had a lot that we wanted to say – both in terms of our own lives, but also in terms of our thoughts and reflections of what was going on and the impacts that we were seeing. In asking ourselves what we could do, we decided that if nothing else, at least we could share our thoughts and experiences.

We decided to start this weekend. We each agreed to write one article, which I thought would be easy, considering that I have many thoughts, and also that I already spend so much time writing down my thoughts privately for myself. However, it wasn’t. Every time I sat down to write this week, I felt somewhat blocked. I started thinking, “What should I write? What would people care about reading? What tone should I write it in? How open or private should I be?” And I would start writing, talking about topics that I thought people might want to hear about, in a somewhat more “distant” tone that wasn’t my own that I thought would be more “professional.” And it didn’t work. The posts made even me bored.

Today, the deadline that I set for myself to write this, I still hadn’t written anything that I was satisfied with, and I decided to just go to the very core of some things on my mind. I’ve always believed that when you are truly open and share what you really have to share, your fear dissipates, because you have nothing to hide, because you’ve already said that which you’re afraid of saying. You have even said it out loud (or at least written it publicly) – so there’s nothing worse that can happen.

On top of that, I guess the good thing about a blog is that it is not really a one-shot thing. You can have many efforts and attempts over the course of time, and every single time, you improve and it feels that you’re slowly beginning to open up to say the things that you’ve always needed to say.

I decided to start with something that I don’t share with many people, but is a very real part of my life.

II. High energy + perfectionism can sometimes lead to anxiety

I’m highly perfectionist and determined, and I’ve always had a lot of energy, but with high amounts of positive energy can also come high amounts of the opposite – negative, debilitating, destructive energy. For me, that comes in the form of stress, impatience, and worry. However, sometimes no matter how hard I try, things just don’t go the way that I want them to go. In the high desire that I have for control, for things to go the way I want them to go, and with the high level of energy that I do put in to make them happen that way, that can sometimes make me really stressed out.

When that happens, sometimes that energy turns inward. Instead of being used to do the things that I want and need to do, it turns, instead, to make me think and overthink and wonder what I could have done, what I could still do, what I should do, whether I should do it, whether it makes sense, whether it’s the right decision, what the other options are, and on and on, running circles inside my mind. And instead of taking action, I get stuck wondering, thinking, replaying in my mind over and over. Usually I can control it, but in particularly bad moments, I’m sometimes unable to sleep and even unable to eat because I’m so busy thinking about that which is bothering me and what I can do about it. I sometimes get stuck in anxiety loops.

III. My recent experience with anxiety

A few weeks ago, that is exactly what happened. A confluence of unexpected events took place that led me to feel out of control. I won’t get too much into the specifics here, but I’ll just say that in the span of a week, I felt like I lost two close friends — one with whom I had previously been romantically involved (a long time ago) – I’ll call him Friend 1 – and the other, who was one of my closest and longest-standing friends from when we were much younger — I’ll call her Friend 2. I introduced them to each other in the context of them being my two close friends, but somehow it quickly turned into more than that between them. As much as I didn’t want it to bother me and wanted to be happy for them, it did bother me, and it actually bothered me a lot.

In the span of several days, I went from feeling okay, to beginning to wonder what was happening, what I had done by introducing them, and why I had ever thought that had been a good idea. I was open about it – I told them that it bothered me, but although they both said that I shouldn’t feel that way, neither did anything about it. For Friend 1, I kind of accepted that, because it hadn’t worked out between us and he had a right to see whomever he wanted, but I guess Friend 2’s reaction was the one that bothered me the most. Despite being clear with her that this really bothered me (once I’d had a couple of days to think about what was happening and how I felt about it), she essentially said “I don’t mean to hurt you, but given that you’re not with him any longer and I got along with him…well…I think I’ll explore it further, even though I’m aware it bothers you.” Coming from someone I had considered my best friend, it really upset me, even though I could also see her perspective.

That conversation happened on a Friday night, kicking off a weekend of stress. As much as I tried to be calm, I couldn’t help but wonder – “what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be happy for them?” But those gave way to other thoughts – “Why is this happening? Why had I been stupid enough to introduce them in the first place? Why hadn’t I made sure to be there when they met? Why? What should I do about it now? Should I continue talking to them and wait to feel okay? Or stop talking to them? How should I distract myself?” And instead of being calm, I felt like the stress and anxiety were eating me alive. I couldn’t sleep that night, or the next night, or the night after. When I lay down and closed my eyes, countless horrible thoughts and questions continued running through my mind for hours. When I finally did drift into sleep, as soon as I opened my eyes a few hours later, the reality set in and the racing thoughts immediately started once again. I felt like my mind couldn’t rest and I couldn’t escape, no matter what I did.

I tried to focus elsewhere – reading books, going to the gym, talking to friends, but no matter what I did, it was a temporary distraction that soon gave way to the same horrible, racing thoughts. I couldn’t seem to get away from them.

IV. My examination of the situation

At some point, I decided to just accept the situation and learn more about what was happening. I looked up “anxiety,” “anxiety loops,” “panic attack,” and other variants, coming upon and reading a variety of articles. It was comforting to see that there was so much written on the topic, because it reminded me that others had felt the same way and had gone through the same things, making me feel slightly less like I was going through this alone.

In particular, I focused on learning about what was actually happening biologically and why. As humans, we are wired to have a level of worry and alertness, because it is what protects us from physical danger. As ancient people living in nature, we needed to experience stress and anxiety, which took the form of our fight or flight response (through adrenaline rushes), because they are what protected us from wild animals and other forms of danger.

Today, we still have the same brain wiring and instincts, but we actually do not face nearly the same level or type of danger that we did back then. Instead, we still feel stress and anxiety – but now, the causes of that stress are things that cannot actually physically harm us – work and emails, notification overloads, people being rude, getting bad feedback at work or school, and in my case, an emotional issue with two close friends. Although all of these things are unpleasant, they cannot actually physically hurt us, which is what our fight or flight response was actually programmed to help us do – avoid physical danger.

In my particular situation, although there was something psychological bothering me, that is all it was – psychological. It was in my head. As much as it stressed me out and caused me to feel bad, there was nothing to truly feel anxious about. What made me feel better was this reminder that there was nothing wrong – rather, it was that everything was right – it’s just that my biological and physiological reactions to danger were acting up in a situation where there actually wasn’t any physical danger.

According to the articles that I read, the best way to let yourself get over these situations was to really understand how you felt and make your mind tired of thinking about it. Examine the situation, think about the worst case scenario, and play that in your mind, asking yourself “what is actually so bad about that? And if it were to happen, what would I do?” At first it’ll be stressful to think about, but soon, you’ll realize that the worst case scenario that you’re so stressed out about is actually not that bad. Your brain will get tired of thinking about it and playing it over and over in your head, slowly the anxiety will dissipate, and you’ll begin to be able to eat and get more sleep at night, and eventually move on.

In my situation, that is, indeed, what happened. Although the initial shock and stress took away my appetite and led to trouble sleeping, I soon started to feel better. I tried to ensure that I stuck to routines I had in place, continued talking to other friends about how I was feeling, and in moments when I felt like my thoughts were going out of control, I just asked myself “what is really the the worst that can happen?” I wrote it down, thought about it, and when I worried, I went back and re-read it. I also tried to remind myself to focus on the present moment, and in those particularly stressful moments, I took deep breaths, forced myself to look around, focus on each individual element in my surroundings one by one, and remind myself that there was no real danger – it was all in my head, and it was something that would go away. As much as I never thought it would happen, within a few days, I started feeling better, and was back to normal within 1-2 weeks.

V. What worked for me

I’m sharing this because while going through this, I really felt like the world was falling apart. Although of course other people had gone through similar things, I still know that this is something that most people don’t share – even though it’s a very normal human state of being that most of us have been in, at some point or another. I wanted to write down how I felt and what worked for me, both as a record for myself, and so as to potentially be helpful to others, if relevant.

As a re-cap, what worked for me was:

  1. Allowing myself to accept and understand how I felt: Reminding myself that the way I was feeling is okay, normal, and natural allowed me to accept how I was feeling without questioning what was wrong with me or trying to tell myself to just “be okay.” Understanding the biological and evolutionary reasons underlying this made me feel more grounded in the fact that this was a normal human reaction to a perceived danger, even though there was no real danger in my case.
  2. Being open with my honest reflection of the situation: Taking time to reflect on the actual root cause of the stress, writing it down, and analyzing why it made me feel the way it did felt very cathartic – like letting go of a weight that I had been holding on to. I also let myself be open about it with close friends, which made made me feel support and made it feel like it was no longer my own burden to bear all alone.
  3. Worst-case scenario acceptance: I asked myself “what is really the worst thing that can happen? What am I really afraid of?” and answered the questions. I wrote these answers down as well, and re-read them when I was feeling particularly down, slowly getting used to this “worst case scenario” and reminding myself that the worst wasn’t really that bad, thus tiring my mind of thinking about this topic and eventually letting it move on.
  4. Living in the physical moment: In particularly bad moments, I found it helpful to ground myself by looking around at my surroundings and examine each object one-by-one in detail, thus slowing down my racing thoughts and reminding myself that I am okay and in a safe place.
  5. Continuing routines: Both at the beginning and as I started to feel better, I found it helpful to force myself to continue my normal routines because it grounded me and reminded me that despite what was happening, things were still normal, and my life would continue.
  6. Experiencing laughter: As part of continuing my routines and letting life go on, I made sure to continue talking to and seeing friends. As much as I felt like staying in and hiding in my apartment at times, I found that seeing someone (or even talking on the phone), made me feel much better and brought about much-needed moments of laughter, which worked remarkably well in dissipating my feelings of anxiety, even if temporarily.

I think the key point here is that many people, at times, experience stress and anxiety, however much it sometimes feels like we are the only ones. We are wired that way – we all have the biological fight or flight response built into us, which sometimes gets triggered and, if we aren’t careful, can bring us into a mental state of prolonged anxiety and stress. I know that I definitely experience it sometimes, but it is important to remember that when it does happen, it’s normal and natural, and we can get out of it. It is just about giving yourself the space to feel that way for a little bit, allowing yourself to fully reflect and think through what is actually scaring you, and slowly, once you truly work through it for yourself, your mind will grow tired of the perceived threat, and time will bring you back to your normal steady-state.