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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.
39 Episodes
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Host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with veteran tech journalist Catherine Shu, of TechCrunch, about improving mental health culture in Silicon Valley. And Shu shares her own journey with depression, including the time she spent in a psychiatric ward as a teenager, and how she found her way from there into tech journalism.
For a long time, the NBA star hid his battle with mental health. But after a very public panic attack in 2017, he started speaking out. Love talks with host Morra Aarons-Mele about role modeling openness about mental health, how he manages his social anxiety as a celebrity, and why basketball both aggravates and relieves his depression.
Aaron Harvey is a successful advertising industry executive – but for many years of his life, he struggled with a form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) that involves repetitive mental compulsions.
John Moe took a bold step when he decided to start a podcast featuring frank, but funny, conversations about depression. Moe was recently laid off, and his show was cancelled. He tells us how he approaches ups and downs in his career, when he seeks help, and what he does to keep everything in perspective.
Amanda Clayman, a psychotherapist specializing in financial wellness, helps her clients uncover the motivations and roots underlying their money anxieties, so they can make better financial decisions. It’s a problem she understands intimately, as an entrepreneur who struggles with financial anxiety.
Many managers and leaders misunderstand what emotional intelligence really means, despite the trendiness of the phrase. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, urges leaders to learn to understand themselves and their teams using a Mood Meter, a tool he developed to help people explain their emotions.
Priska Neely, the new Managing Editor of NPR’s Gulf States newsroom, has always wanted to manage people, and she’s long thought about the best way to communicate and lead. As a Black woman, she’s also been writing about organizations and race throughout the past year. Neely joins host Morra Aarons-Mele to talk about how anxiety makes her a better manager and how she injects empathy into hard conversations at work.
Early on in the pandemic, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz wrote a piece about his unusual eating habits that grabbed the attention of many with anxiety, depression, or just Covid-related sadness. In the essay, Saltz recounts a lifetime of using food to cope with trauma and anxiety – until art helped him find a new path forward. In this conversation, he tells host Morra Aarons-Mele how his pursuit of work and paring life down to basics helped him manage trauma and anxiety and find a life he loves.
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.
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Comments (7)

Listener

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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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