DiscoverThe Anxious Achiever
The Anxious Achiever

The Anxious Achiever

Author: 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.

130 Episodes
Does your career path feel uncertain, or at the very least, unsteady? In a world where jobs aren’t guaranteed, we increasingly need to advocate for ourselves and create a brand around our work. In the process of promoting ourselves, we can also lose sight of our values and the longer term goals. Marketing expert and author Dorie Clark speaks with host Morra Aarons-Mele about the ups and downs of career and life.
Anthony Hunter is someone just setting out in what most of us consider to be adulthood: just graduating from college and joining the workforce full-time. But he’s been doing a few things a lot of us didn’t do in our teens and early 20s: working for the family business and as an entrepreneur even while in undergrad, and more importantly, working on his own mental health and increasing mental health awareness for his peers.  He talks about his own journey to self-awareness, the work he’s done on campus and beyond in promoting better mental health, and the misconceptions many people in the workforce have about Gen Z.
Representative Becca Balint is a new member of Congress, joining this January after several years in the Vermont Senate. She didn’t start her career in politics, but is now working to use her power to fight for those who need better mental health care.  She shares her own story with depression and anxiety with host Morra Aarons-Mele, opens up about the ways she stays grounded in Washington, and why it’s important for more policymakers to be open about - and help create resources for - mental health struggles.
“I didn’t want to accept myself as someone who had mental health struggles. And having kids made me be like, oh no, this is a health issue that you absolutely need to keep under control because your kids come first,” says New York Times opinion writer Jessica Grose.  Like many things, the pandemic brought to light just how fragile the mental health of parents - and especially mothers - really was in this country. But just because remote schooling has largely faded away and people are back to business as usual, doesn’t mean the ongoing anxiety and depression issues of millions of American parents have gone away. In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks to Grose, who also wrote the book Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood.
Millions of Americans depend on prescription medication like Ritalin and Adderall each day to help them accomplish their tasks. Whether taking these prescriptions for ADHD or narcolepsy, people across the country are now facing a shortage, and difficulty getting the medication they need.  In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with Jeanne Pinder, founder and CEO of, about what’s behind the shortage and how detrimental its impacts are. We’ll also hear from writer and non profit advisor Lindsay Scola, who takes Ritalin for narcolepsy, about what the shortage has meant for her, and how stimulant medication has changed her life.
Chip Conley is an entrepreneur who has built a number of companies from the ground up, and also served as Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy at AirBnb. He’s also someone who has made it his life’s work to speak out about anxiety and depression issues, and advocate for better mental health. He does that in part by sharing the wisdom he has gained through years of trial and error, and calling out unnecessary generational tensions in the workplace.  He speaks with host Morra Aarons-Mele about building a high-powered career, facing uncertainty, and the assumptions many of us have about younger generations at work.
We’ve seen an increasing number of headlines around the study and use of psychedelics like psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA and LSD. As research continues, many are wondering how these studies can be improved - and how they apply to work and leadership.  In this episode, host Morra Aarons-Mele speaks with clinician Lebert Lester III of the Behavior Wellness Clinic about the application of psychedelics for depression or trauma, and how to increase the number of people of color in clinical trials for these types of medications. Then, she speaks with IMD professor Alyson Meister about her cutting edge research on psychedelics and leadership. For Further Reading: Could Psychedelics Open New Doors for Science and Business?
Those of us who put pressure on ourselves to achieve do it in all aspects of life - from school to work to family. That means that when our sense of self gets shaken by any perceived failure in any of those realms, our anxiety or depression can easily flare up.  Martin Sinozich is an investor, entrepreneur and senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. Like many leaders, despite a very successful career, Sinozich long felt impostor feelings and fears. Now, he aims to now be open and honest with the next generation of business leaders that he teaches; one of his big missions is to increase workplace mental health.
Disruption is the name of the game in so many businesses today, and that’s the case for many high performing individuals as well. But how do we think about drastically changing our life and our career, without letting anxiety and fear take hold? Whitney Johnson is an author who formerly worked with Clayton Christensen, and who has chased her dreams through a winding and unexpected career path. She shares lessons on disrupting yourself while trying to manage the anxiety that might come with that.
On March 10th, the FDIC announced the closure of Silicon Valley Bank, marking the second largest bank failure in U.S. history. If you were watching the minute to minute news on social, this development might have felt even bigger - and anxiety inducing.  We live in a time when social media is able to amplify stories and speed up the spread, and it can have a big impact on our mental health. In this episode, Morra speaks with Isa Watson. She’s CEO and Founder of Squad, and one of the entrepreneurs affected by the failure of the place she did all of her business banking. She also wrote the book Life Beyond Likes: Logging Off Your Screen and Into Your Life.
The film and television industry is incredibly pressure-filled, high stakes, and visible. That’s true for the actors and actresses - but there’s often just as much pressure for those behind the scenes.  Jimmy Horowitz is a senior executive at NBCUniversal, and he shares his story of his battle with depression in 2019 - the first time he’s faced a mental health crisis. In this episode, he explains why it wasn’t easy to be transparent, and how he’s working with his organization, and psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt, to make these conversations easier for others going forward. That includes approaching mental health like an ongoing workout regimen - the idea behind Anhalt’s company, Coa.
The question of how and when to show certain emotions at work is evolving, and it’s subject to a lot of bias. There are still double standards around behavior for many groups of people, and today we’ll talk about the negative -- and positive-- impacts for women who show emotion in and around the workplace.  We’ll learn how far we’ve come - and haven’t - from Stanford sociologist Marianne Cooper, who was also lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg’s New York Times bestseller Lean In and co-authors the annual Women in the Workplace study with Lean In and McKinsey.
Have you ever had to go into conversation where you needed to advocate for yourself and really feel like you weren’t coming from a position of power? Learn how to calm anxiety, and regain your negotiating power. For most people, anxiety is a fear or concern about the future. And having that anxiety going into any negotiation can really feel like a loss of power. But emotions are a normal part of negotiation, and you can use them to your advantage. Moshe Cohen teaches the next generation of business leaders how to engage in effective negotiations as a senior lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. And he wrote the book “Collywobbles: How to Negotiate When Negotiating Makes You Nervous.” He speaks to Morra Aarons-Mele about how to approach negotiating when you are prone to anxiety - and what to do when you recognize anxiety across the bargaining table.
You know that cliche phrase "leaving to spend more time with my family" that so many people us when they leave a job? For Lenny Mendoca, the phrase didn't have much life. After serving as senior partner at McKinsey, Mendoca went on to work as an advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom. He announced his retirement from Newson's office with the standard phrase. But within a few weeks, after starting to process his clinical depression, he shared it with the public. It's not an easy thing for any successful people, but in some ways even harder for men, to talk about mental health in their careers because of stereotypes and stigma. In this episode, Morra speaks Mendoca, and also listener Darshan Patel, a regional lead at a global company who himself struggles with severe depression and bipolar disorder, and is looking to break the stigma around mental health in India in particular.
Meredith Arthur is a self-described recovering overthinker. She is chief of staff at TwoTwenty, a in-house incubator for new projects at Pinterest. She’s also a mental health advocate and author of the book Get Out of My Head: Inspiration for Overthinkers in an Anxious World. Meredith speaks to host Morra Aarons-Mele about being diagnosed with anxiety at age 40, life as a product manager in the start up world, and how she manages anxiety now.
Craig Kramer was someone with an impressive corporate career. His son, Peter Lee-Kramer, was on a track of academic and athletic success. Then mental health issues surfaced - and sent the father and son to both re-evaluate their priorities and shift their career goals.  Today, Peter is in a graduate program to become a licensed therapist, while Craig serves as a mental health ambassador for Johnson and Johnson. In this episode, they share their story of how they grew together as a family and shifted their lives in the wake of a tough mental health period.
It might be a confrontation with a colleague who is constantly late to meetings. You might need to finally ask for that raise. Or it could be approaching a coworker to disclose a mental health issue you’ve been struggling with.  We all face difficult conversations - and difficult people - in our careers. Amy Gallo is a conflict expert, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, and author of the book Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People). She speaks with host Morra Aarons-Mele about how to keep perspective and prepare for difficult conversations at work.
Most offices are rife with sports metaphors, from hitting the target to being a team player. There’s a lot we can learn from athletes and those who train them about performance and mental health. And high-profile athletes from Michael Phelps to Simone Biles have contributed to the broader conversation around mental health in recent years due to their openness about their struggles.  In this episode, we speak with performance psychologist Alex Auerbach, who works with the Toronto Raptors, about how he helps athletes work through their mental challenges and keeps them performing at a high level.  Plus, we hear from former NFL star Ryan Mundy about why he started Alkeme Health, a startup focusing on eliminating health disparities for the black community.
There are a lot of challenges in our lives that can help us achieve. And then there is the reality that there ARE going to be times that are traumatic, tragic, sad. We face depression, death, and grief - because we are human.  Today we have two guests who face those things boldly. First, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Susan David talks about the tyranny of positivity and how it seeps into the workplace. Then, listener Jessie Lytton speaks with Morra about her journey as a caretaker for a terminally-ill partner and what that’s meant for her career.
People who end up in leadership positions at huge companies are usually overachievers: they’ve succeeded in school, internships, early career jobs, and as managers and leaders. But all that success can also hide a whole lot of feelings that we push aside.  Newton Cheng, Director of Health and Performance at Google, spent a year facing those challenges head on. The world champion powerlifter took mental health leave from the company, a phrase he feels strongly about. And it let him interrogate all the ways his mind pushes him, tricks him, and tells him he’s not good enough.  He shares his story about what he learned on leave, and how he’s working to quiet those critical voices in his head.
Comments (6)

Lia Thomas

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

May 20th

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

Brooke Jackson

New to podcast, already hooked!

Jan 3rd

carlos gonzalez batres

Great episode, thanks for your work!

Nov 27th

Meta Minds

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

Oct 11th


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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