Have you ever felt like you are carrying the weight of the heavens and earth on your shoulders?
Assuming that you are not Atlas, the titan who was sentenced to hold up the celestial heavens on his shoulders for eternity, you probably have felt, at least once in your life, an enormous sense of pressure and responsibility that you just couldn’t shake off.
For me, most times, this would occur briefly and could be pinpointed to a very stressful situation happening in my personal or professional life. Life has its ups and downs, and as long as the downs don’t persist, one can manage it pretty well.
But one day, it just became more than navigating life’s waves. For some unexpected reason, I started getting this feeling that I couldn’t name at the time but later managed to identify it as frustration.
I wasn’t feeling well at work or at home, not in my professional or personal life. I kept feeling that I was letting everyone down, that I was repeatedly reliving that heavy, sad moment when you are juggling several balls, and they all fall on the ground, over and over and over…
When Being Happy Makes You Worse
The fact that I had a good family, no severe health conditions, and a great job that allowed me financial stability, as ridiculous as it may sound, made me feel that I shouldn’t feel this way, that I had no moral right to be like this, especially compared with many other people. So I would get worse and even more entrapped in a continuous loop of self-inflicted guilt.
I just had this notion that nothing was ever right and that I was always in the wrong place. There was this anxiety to be somewhere else, somehow feeling that life was passing me by while I was stuck in between two moments: waiting for something or being late for something.
Initially, it is very easy to blame others and blame outside situations, but deep down, I always knew the common aspect was me. It seems pretty basic, but it’s not simple to make this surface when you’re entangled in your struggles. I would say that it is even harder when you have to admit it because blaming others erases any responsibility on your end. Admitting it brings you accountability. In this case, unlike the superhero, you have a great responsibility, but you feel like you don’t have great power.
I deal with software in my professional life, and software has bugs that we need to fix. But everyone knows that you shouldn’t fix the bug’s symptoms. You need to dig and find the root cause and work on it. Here, it’s the same: you have to find the root cause, but this is no professional issue; this is personal, and you should handle it that way.
Looking for Help
After talking to my wife about what was going on, even if I didn’t really know how to express myself at the time, she made me realize that much like the body needs to be cared for and worked out, so does the mind. Her feedback was really important for me to take the next step: she encouraged me to find someone that could help.
The company I work for, OutSystems, has an initiative called C’alm Space. It’s an ongoing program that provides counseling sessions with a psychologist at no cost, with full discretion, and most importantly, no strings attached.
I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical at first, but I guess it’s because I didn’t know what these sessions were and the benefits they’d bring. One of the most important aspects is that it forces you to think. You might feel that you already thought hard and long about many of these topics, but when you try to say things out loud, you realize you haven’t processed them at all.
I also learned about myself. Something that I found interesting is that I was fortunate to have always grown up in an adversity-free environment. I never had to deal with really complex situations. That is absolutely fine, but on the other hand, I reached adult life without the necessary mechanisms to cope with adversity, and as soon as the boat started rocking, the tools I needed to deal with it were not there.
The sessions helped me to gain more self-awareness, to look at things from a different perspective, and even gave me interesting reading advice, like the book Focus — The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by David Goleman.
We Need to Talk About It
Therapy really helped, and I have no problem talking about it. More importantly, I advise everyone who’s feeling like I did to look for guidance and counseling. By the way, this was before Covid-19; these uncertain times we’re going through will only magnify these feelings, so don’t try to handle everything on your own and just “suck it up.”
I know that I’ve been really fortunate to have my wife’s support and work in a company like OutSystems. OutSystems has expanded the initiatives to deal with its workers’ wellbeing: one of the most recent was acquiring several licenses for the Headspace app for our use. To help Portuguese parents (of children up to the age of 12) cope with the strict lockdown and closed schools, we also got eight free hours per week.
I used the word “I” more in this blog post than in any other post I’ve written, but it’s really not just about me. This is something that happens inside each of us, and there’s no other way to share it other than talking about it.
Every single one of us can be this “I,” so if somehow you can relate to the beginning of the post, don’t stop there. You might follow other paths and solve the situation but don’t try to solve it on your own. Look for assistance — it will save you time. Remember, peace of mind doesn’t have a price.
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