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The Anxious Achiever

Author: HBR Presents / Morra Aarons-Mele

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Host Morra Aarons-Mele is on a mission to reframe how we think about anxiety and mental health in the workplace. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. We desperately need better models for leadership and a more holistic view of mental health. Our culture tells those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression that we can’t succeed but we tell a different story — without sugarcoating the tough stuff. We feature stories from people who’ve been there and experts who can help you thrive.

The views expressed on this podcast are those of its hosts, guests, and callers, and not those of Harvard Business Review.
31 Episodes
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Jason Kander was on track to be a major force in American politics. But for him, working – and succeeding – was a way to escape the pain of PTSD and depression, after his military service in Afghanistan. Kander had to step away from his career to focus on therapy and healing.
Many high-powered jobs require people to work long hours and give up sleep. But for people who suffer from anxiety and depression, lack of sleep can also create downward spirals that make those issues worse. Sleep researcher Christopher Barnes, an associate professor of management at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, explains how sleep deprivation can affect your mental health – and your career.
Many people who end up in prestigious careers choose their professions, consciously or subconsciously, in order to seek the approval of others. But that can create depression and anxiety. Host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with author Julie Lythcott-Haims about her journey from a childhood filled with pressure to succeed, to becoming a corporate lawyer, to becoming a dean at Stanford, where she tried to guide young people into paths that truly fit them.
For managers struggling with anxiety and stress right now -- or worrying about their employees feeling that strain -- it can be hard to find the right mix of transparency and positivity. Host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Acceleration Partners CEO Robert Glazer, host of The Elevate Podcast, about how he tries to model both a positive outlook and honesty to those on his team.
In this episode, we hear from two young professionals. Both of them have worked hard and carefully planned their careers, but now they’re confronting the anxiety and uncertainty of economic forces beyond their control. Then host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey about the collective psychological and financial impacts economic crises can have on entire generations.
Amelia Ransom, Senior Director of Engagement and Diversity at Avalara, offers advice for how people of color can get what they need from their employers to help protect their mental health. Later in the episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Benish Shah, Chief Growth Officer at Loop & Tie, about how white people can support their colleagues of color in a meaningful way.
Host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who used meditation to address the trauma and anxiety he experienced while working as a New York City cop. Later in the show, tech CEO Joel Gascoigne explains why he was transparent with his employees at Buffer, when he had to take time off to recover from his own burnout.
Poppy Jaman OBE struggled with postpartum depression after the births of her children. Now she’s on a mission to promote mental health awareness to the financial and professional services industries, as the CEO of City Mental Health Alliance. She discusses the difference between empathetic and compassionate leadership, the therapeutic joy of being silly, and what it’s like to devote your career to mission-driven work, while caring for your mental health.
We speak with MIT’s Seth Mnookin, a writer and ex-addict who has been clean for 20 years, about the connection between substance abuse and underlying mental health issues, and how addiction can affect creativity and career. And we explore the hard lessons addicts can learn in recovery about their own limitations and definitions of success with CHA Center for Mindfulness and Compassion's Dr. Zev Schuman-Olivier, an addiction psychiatrist who focuses on mindfulness as a path to healing.
What’s it like to lead a team when optimizing self-care and emotional wellness is the point of their work? Goop, a company founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, explores all aspects of mental and physical health and advocates for a rarefied and often controversial brand of self-care. Elise Loehnen, Chief Content Officer at Goop, discusses her own experiences with anxiety at work, how she manages employees and their mental health, and what self-care really means.
Jason Rosario discusses his own journey with depression and anxiety, and the lessons he’s learned about vulnerability, masculinity, and leadership. Rosario left a career in finance to found The Lives of Men, a social impact and creative agency focused on decoding masculine psychology and challenging false concepts of masculinity.
Throughout our lives, we will all experience grief in one form or another. It can also translate into depression, anxiety, and other emotional strain. But as we grieve, we often have to keep working or growing our businesses. And that is true even in a time of mass grief, like a pandemic. In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with chef Jody Adams about the period in 2016 when her long-time restaurant, Rialto, closed. At the same time, her sister was dying of cancer. Now Adams is helping the staff at her current Boston-area restaurants grieve for their struggling industry, amid the coronavirus lockdown.
In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with organizational psychologist Stew Friedman and tech entrepreneur Sehreen Noor Ali about the ways parenting children with specific needs changed them and their career paths.
Working for yourself – and working outside an office – can have a lot of benefits for people struggling with mental health issues, including flexibility when you need to take a breather. But freelancing and the gig economy can also trigger stresses that impact mental health, including isolation, lack of career trajectory, and perhaps most importantly, financial instability. In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with author and entrepreneur Chris Brogan, who is diagnosed with clinical depression, and journalist Ada Calhoun, the author of “Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis,” about how to adapt work and personal life to self-employment and freelancing.
With great success can come even greater stress and anxiety. But Gabrielle Union is using her success to stand up for her truth. A sexual assault survivor, Union suffers from PTSD and social anxiety. Now the actress uses her energy and influence to speak up against sexism and racism in Hollywood. She tells Morra Aarons-Mele about how she balances self-care and being a voice for others who struggle to be heard.
The rapid onset of the coronavirus is changing our work – and our lives. For those who own businesses or work in the gig economy, the stress and financial uncertainty is even greater. When we don’t know what the future will hold, or are working in isolation, what can we do? Host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Jerry Colonna, CEO of Reboot.io, about how he is leading his team through such a stressful time. And later in the episode, business psychologist Camille Preston explains how we all can cope with uncertainty by taking on a growth mindset.
Anxiety can affect so many aspects of our work – from how we make decisions to how we receive feedback and behave in meetings. In the final episode of Season 1, host Morra Aarons-Mele and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes discuss the daily strategies and habits that can help to manage your anxiety at work.
In earlier episodes of this show, we’ve talked about how to open a dialogue about mental health and work, and how both employees and leaders can navigate a mental health issue at work. In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Kelly Greenwood, founder and CEO of Mind Share Partners, and Alison Nasisi, former director of compensation, benefits and work life at The Broad Institute, about what companies can do to truly create mentally healthy workplaces.
How should you approach difficult conversations about mental health with your colleagues and boss? In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Amy Gallo, author of “HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict,” about when and how to disclose a mental health issue to your company. Plus, Dr. Rebecca Harley, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, discusses the connection between mental health and recognizing boundaries at work.
Anxiety shows up in all kinds of business situations — especially when you’re starting your own company. In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Cheryl Contee, CEO of Do Big Things, and Jeannette Kaplun, founder of Hispana Global, about how to work through anxiety and build resilience.
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Jul 9th
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Lia Thomas

Great podcast. Feels honest and relatable. Helps me be thoughtful about my process and path.

May 20th
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Alina Cota

Hello! I love this podcast so much. Truly. It struck a nerve the instant I heard it and I have recommended it to many since. When will the 2nd season start?

Mar 10th
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Brooke Jackson

New to podcast, already hooked!

Jan 3rd
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carlos gonzalez batres

Great episode, thanks for your work!

Nov 27th
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Meta Minds

Great podcast, we are going to be following your progress! 🎙

Oct 11th
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Gülay Kilic

Too bad that there is this annoying music in the background, not stopping and making it very difficult to listen to what you are saying 🙄😔 Could you please look into this?

Oct 1st
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