On Managing Anxiety, Work, Life, and all Things in Between

This Spring, you may have noted that I posted a little less and bitched a bit more than normal. I have long considered writing this, but Karen’s post recently and the evaluating one’s life posts that have been floating around for the past year convinced me that now was the time.

Karen’s post talks about what we do to our motivated leaders. We overburden them. We steal their shiny with promises that never come. I am sorry to say that this has happened to me gradually over the past year. I am still an optimist, often annoyingly so, and I still love my profession, but this past semester made we rethink what my job and my life was and where the lines needed to be drawn. I needed more lines.

In between TLA and CiL this year, I spent a day on my couch, crying, overwhelmed with anxiety that I would not get my house clean ever, and thus become the worst wife ever (and later a terrible mother) and that I would never finish all the things at work that were on my plate and thus be a terrible person. I had too much to do and I was only one little person in a big, big world.

Was my To Do list that terrible? Well, it was pretty full, but not crying over it full. I realized I had some anxiety issues that I needed to deal with and I found a professional to listen to me. I feel better about things and I am handling my To Do list better. Self Awareness is a powerful thing.

I also realized a few other helpful things:

  • This is my job, not my life. I can go home and go home. I can leave all the drama, malfunction, and swamped To Do lists where they belong, in my office. It is hard, and some days I fail, but I try.
  • I can say no. Boundries are a good thing. I am saying no at work a lot lately and to some of my professional organizations.
  • I can say no to enabling malfunction too.
  • Doing small chores every day makes house cleaning easier.
  • I define my own success, it does not look like yours, and I am ok with that.
  • My family (right now only consisting of a husband and a slobbery dog) is more important than anything else in my life. Period. No negotiations.
  • I am still a librarian no matter what my job title says and what I do, because sometimes you just are.

All of those things are important, but the last one was what has really affected my thinking. I am starting to consider possibilities for jobs that I never would have pondered a few months ago. (and if you are surprised that I am looking, you should not be, most of us are always keeping our eyes open) A new addition to my blogroll is the Brazen Careerist, which I have mentioned before. Penelope Trunk has been writing lately about balancing work and home life and defining your own success. I find myself nodding emphatically to many of her thoughts. I would love to meet Penelope one day. She seems like a great person to share big ideas with over coffee.

I think that as long as I am doing something I like and can feel like I am doing something worthwhile, I will be content in my job. It does not matter if I have librarian in my title. I will always be one in my heart. *big sigh of relief*

I suppose the real point of writing this post is so that you, my readers and friends, would know why I have been behaving oddly. I also want to encourage those feeling overwhelmed to step back, let go, and find someone to talk to, professional or otherwise. It is amazing what a few words and a listening ear can do.

It also does not hurt that I have the Best. Husband. Ever. God knew I needed a man like Mr. Rochester. What a lucky wife I am.

What is next for Jane? I have a handful of projects I am working on this summer, some big, some small, small related to MPOW, and some not. I am excited about all of them and will share them as I am able.

Now, I am going to cross some things off my To Do list. 😉

–Jane, thanks world

18 thoughts on “On Managing Anxiety, Work, Life, and all Things in Between

  • May 24, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Great post. It’s important to learn how to learn work off and learn you can’t do everything. I always use the Serenity Prayer to get me through my days 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • May 24, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Good for you for writing this and showing people that they can (and need to) disengage from work, that they can (and need to) find a work/life balance, and that they can (and need to) say no sometimes. Just when I think you can’t rock any more than I already thought you did…

    I’d started writing a post just like this on my birthday, but now it looks like you have finished it for me. We WILL find that balance, chica. We will find a culture that values what we offer and that lets us be the best librarians we can be — whether it’s in a library or not. I get down sometimes, and lately more frequently than I’d like to admit, but I also still have tons of hope that things can be a lot better. 🙂

  • May 24, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Right on! Glad to hear you’re finding some space and time to feel less anxious and more yourself–and I’m sure that wherever you go, you’ll not only still be a librarian but also still kick ass (with plenty of recuperation time when you need it).

  • May 24, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    First, never apologize for your housekeeping. (Personally I’d rather panic and clean the house once a month.)

    Second, thank goodness for realizing *now,* not twenty years from now, where your priorities are. Nobody at work is going to pat you on the head for setting boundaries and not giving 1000% (and then 2000%, and then 3000%). But your job will never love you the way your family and friends love you. Never. It doesn’t matter what they promise, it’s a lie. Don’t think about keeping up with people who have bought into that lie, either (often as a way to avoid the important stuff in life, like relationships). When you are on your deathbed you are not going to say, “How I wish I had spent more time cleaning the toilet or showing how many hours I could pull at MPOW.” You’re going to wish you had more time with the people you love, doing the things that really matter to you.

    There are many wonderful ways to be a librarian, and the obvious paths are only part of the answer. I am a librarian *forever,* and for *every minute of the day.* I also work hard to be a librarian in non-obvious venues… where my role is to represent librarianship to the rest of the world. That is what you have been doing as well, and it may well be your *best work.*

    Trust me, I know this is a struggle. You feel obligations, you get pulled in some directions, you are under pressure, internal and external. I’ve been there through two professions (if you can believe this, I went into librarianship thinking it would be a nice relaxing occupation), and in the end, I manage to deprogram myself out of the Cult of The Slavering Work-Dogs and get back to life.

    Mr. Rochester loves the inner you, not the librarian or over-achiever, and I bet he is thrilled to have a little more Jane all to himself.

  • May 24, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Hi, Jane.
    Thank you for the shoutout to Brazen Careerist. Your post really resonates with me because I, too, have been feeling overwhelmed. My book is coming out this week, and the amount of work associated with a book launch was a pretty big surprise to me.

    So yesterday I did nothing. I was too overwhelmed with my to do list to even look at it. And then I remembered all the reserach I’ve read about being overhwelmed by work. The best thing to feel better is not to take a break, but to acheive a goal.

    So I looked on my list of stuff for something that would be a sure shot — like, if I did it, I would see results. And I did that one thing. And it got me rolling again. At least for today 🙂


  • May 24, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I have realized recently that marking off even one small thing on a list can make a difference.

    A few minutes with a book and a nice cup of tea works wonders as well.

    To All,
    You guys make being a librarian so very shiny.

  • May 24, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    The fifth point was the hardest for me to learn. Being surrounded by incredibly successful people like you and others I know made me feel like a failure for a long time. I finally realized that we all have different strengths and also different goals. I had to make goals I would be happy satisfying and let the energy of those around me spur me, not deter me. It sounds like you are also on that path. Hear hear!

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  • May 25, 2007 at 8:04 am

    “I define my own success, it does not look like yours, and I am ok with that.”

    Wonderful statement. Can I quote it?

    I learned long ago that I was not one of those “type A overachievers.” The key for me is to actually settle on that definition of success for myself, and work with a little more focus.

  • May 25, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Your posting set me wondering. But then I read your comment about seeking help. So I decided to take the plunge.
    I am a practicing Psychiatrist for 38 years now.
    In that time I have spent a lot of time trying to put together what I have learnt.
    It is no apparently obvious to me that we should put more effort into preventing anxiety and depression than curing it.
    I can tell who is going to develop these illnesses long before they do. They all have poor quality of life. They are all ‘doers’ and not ‘be-ers’. They are all good for others and bad for themselves.
    We can change all that. We can prevent anxiety and depression. We can improve quality of life. We can do this by using simple, but highly effective interventions. This is why I built http://www.myRay.com
    It is a free non commercial site.
    Today’s patient wants to be informed. He has to understand. http://www.myray.com is not only free but it has comprehensive explanations.
    If you want to understand what are and what are the relationships between: Emotion, Feelings, Thought, Moods, Depression and Anxiety you can refer to http://www.MyDoctorExplains.com Like http://www.myRay.com it is a free and non commercial site. You will understand also what you have, what it means, what your choices are, what to expect and how to make them.
    Both http://myRay.com and http://www.MyDoctorExplains.com are free and designed to help you. Please use them as often and as long as you so wish.
    With kindest regards
    Dr. Michael Benjamin

  • May 25, 2007 at 8:25 am

    As long as you give me credit, quote away.

    Dr. Benjamin,
    Thank you for the information.

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  • May 26, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Hey Michelle, I just left a comment on Merdedith’s blog empathizing with the whole burn out issue. I really know how you feel and have had those cry on the couch days myself. They are usually my wake up call to change and slow down. Putting family first has been my salvation. I travel as little as possible in order to spend as much time as possible with my little boy and that means I have said no many times in the last four years — but things I have said yes to have been very enjoyable and rewarding. I applaud you for writing this post. I hope we can get together for a drink (or three) in DC!

  • May 28, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Thank you for writing this, and writing it so eloquently.

    No matter what you do (or don’t do) you are an amazing person and an incredible librarian, and now it’s time for you to be a happy person, too.

  • May 29, 2007 at 9:44 am


    The librarian in me can’t resist mentioning a book that helped me, The three boxes of life. By the same folks who did What color is your parachute, it discusses balance in life. Work is only one box. Common sense really, but something I need to be reminded of every once in a while.

  • May 30, 2007 at 8:59 am


    I think this post will resonate with every next gen librarians especially newbies trying to find success in their library and career. I think your realizations I can apply to my life so much no matter how dysfunction work can get.

  • May 31, 2007 at 12:28 am

    Oh my gosh – thank you.

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