Read - Connect - Reflect #3
Call it what you want—the apathy crisis, the empathy gap, our collective sense of “blah”—but I would venture to guess that we’ve all experienced this sense of detachment over the past few months. The pandemic has left us depleted, and our so-called “resilience fatigue” has made it harder to care about things… and other people.
“While the exhaustion of the young working parent without reliable childcare is different from the exhaustion of the ER doctor, one thread that often ties them together is the feeling that the world doesn’t care about their pain—whether that feeling tracks with reality or not. The immunocompromised feel it from the mask-refusers. The teachers feel it from the parents, and vice versa.” Ultimately, when we don’t feel cared for, it’s difficult to care for others.
Several years ago I drafted an article about this very topic, so I was delighted to see someone else have a similar idea (and actually get around to publishing it 🙈). At its foundation, family systems theory argues that every family is an interconnected unit and, thus, individual members cannot be understood in isolation. When we grow up, our values, roles, relationship patterns, boundaries, etc. are influenced by what we experienced in our family of origin. As such, “the role you play in your family tends to be one that you fall into easily at work”
The authors encourage us to reflect: “What roles did you play in your family when you were young? What were the roles of others in your family, and how did yours relate to theirs? How does that dynamic relate to the roles you now assume as an adult and a leader? When have your family roles been useful at work, and when have they held you back?”
Why American teens are so sad (The Atlantic)
What an important article. Rates of mental health issues and suicide have reached alarming highs in the past decade (i.e., rates had risen sharply pre-pandemic), and this article delineates four reasons why: social media use, decreased sociality, increased awareness and internalization of world stressors, and modern parenting norms.
“The world is overwhelming, and an inescapably negative news cycle creates an atmosphere of existential gloom, not just for teens but also for their moms and dads. The more overwhelming the world feels to parents, the more they may try to bubble-wrap their kids with accommodations. Over time, this protective parenting style deprives children of the emotional resilience they need to handle the world’s stresses. Childhood becomes more insular: Time spent with friends, driving, dating, and working summer jobs all decline. College pressures skyrocket. Outwardly, teens are growing up slower; but online, they’re growing up faster.”
Just last week, Lithuania passed a law granting fully paid, four-day workweeks to all public sector employers with children under 3. Iceland and Belgium, along with a handful of progressive companies, are also experimenting with shortened workweeks. And though this type of scheduling isn’t applicable to every industry, it does seem to be working for some.
“Perhaps the biggest argument in favor of a shorter workweek is that it doesn’t seem to harm productivity, counterintuitive as that may seem. Part of this is due to the human tendency to stretch or condense the time needed to complete a task based on the time we have available. If we know we have eight hours to fill, we’ll pace ourselves; the promise of an earlier quitting time provides incentive to buckle down and streamline our work habits.”
The pregnancy gap (Science)
Pregnant women are told to err on the side of caution: avoid sushi, limit caffeine, and—sometimes—discontinue long-standing medication. The goal, of course, is to protect the vulnerable fetus, but the reality is that there is little to no fetal safety data on 90% of prescription medication available. For women with chronic health conditions, the lack of information about drug safety is more than unsettling, it’s potentially life-threatening.
However, within the past few years there’s been a growing awareness that we need more research in an effort to protect the health of both moms and babies. As Maged Costantine, a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist says in the article; “‘There needs to be a cultural shift in viewing pregnant people as medically complex, rather than vulnerable, needing protection’”
Earlier this month, a friend and former colleague (hi, Mark! 👋) wrote a very thoughtful Facebook post about my newsletter and the impact that our friendship had on him. This unexpected act of support and generosity really touched me, and I was inspired to “pay it forward”. I reached out to a former mentor of mine that I hadn’t spoken to in a few years and thanked her for the impact that she had on my career development. She recently experienced a loss in her life, so the outreach was particularly meaningful to her.
Think of someone in your life who has had an influence—big or small—on your development. How can you let that person know you appreciate them?
Have you noticed that sometimes you tend to disproportionately focus on the negative? Think back to your last performance review. Did you gloss over all of the positive feedback and spend your time perseverating on the areas for improvement? Are there times when its easier to focus on all of the tasks/chores your tween didn’t do, instead of the ones he did? This so-called “negativity bias” refers to the human tendency to give more weight to negative experiences than positive ones.
Scholars have argued that there is an evolutionary basis for this—we have evolved to be differentially attuned to negative information because it helps us avoid potentially harmful stimuli and allows us to understand others’ mental states. However, only seeing what’s wrong with someone can be maladaptive in the context of forming and maintaining meaningful relationships.
I encourage you to reflect on which situations, people, or circumstances trigger particularly negative thinking. What is it about these stimuli that might elicit this response? What feelings, other than negativity, do these triggers elicit? Helplessness? Anger? Incompetence? Fear?
Next time you find yourself being exceedingly negative about something, ask yourself the following questions:
Why does this feel so acute right now? Will this matter one month from now?
My perspective may feel true, but is it serving me/my goals?
How much energy do I want to devote to this issue?
Is there an entirely different way to view this situation?
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