5| Work is Everything, but it Shouldn’t Be

This internship has been a wealth of knowledge and information for me in many ways, most of which I have described in previous posts: research skills, psychology methods, literature searches, systematic reviews, etc. One thing I didn’t anticipate was how this experience would force me to confront some of my own work-related qualities and tendencies that came to Germany with me. Namely, I can never stop thinking about work and I generally struggle to de-stress at the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong: ever since I started studying psychology I’ve had a hard time not thinking about/applying concepts I’ve learned as I go about my day. I don’t view this as a bad thing in and of itself. Rather, I’m continually amazed at how much of what I learn in class I’m able to identify and observe in my day-to-day. This phenomenon of my brain never shutting itself up extends into my work here as well, perhaps even more so because I spend hours a day reading research articles that discuss environmental characteristics that either assist physical activity or prevent it. Therefore, when I find myself taking a walk through the park after work, or using the transit, or just walking down the street, I can’t help but think “hmmm, if only they had ____ here instead of ____” or “wow, this park is so walkable! I wonder what the purpose of ____ feature is?” I enjoy this, but I worry that this is merely one symptom of many that points to the fact that even when I leave work, I haven’t really left it. Like I said, there are positive things about this…but I think there are unhealthy elements of it too. An unhealthy aspect is that it makes it more difficult for me to de-stress at the end of the day. This all sounds negative, I know, but truthfully I’m appreciative of having discovered this about myself so I can change it.

 

Getting my mind off work: how do I do that? Personal pitfalls, falling into old habits no matter where I go. It was like this in Ann Arbor, too, so I think I have some work to do on myself. That’s okay.

 

One thing (of many) that I really admire about German culture is what I believe U-Mich folk call “work hard, play hard.” Never has that statement been truer than when it is applied to German working culture. On average, Germans work fewer hours per week than almost any other industrialized nation, yet their productivity does not suffer for it. The general tone seems to be “show up, get your work done, and go enjoy your life. You are more than an employee.” Naturally the kind of job you have can affect this, but in general it appears that few people stay in the office past 4pm (but they come in at 8am) and almost no one works on Sunday. It feels here that the premium is placed on competency and quality, and no one is in a competition to see who works harder, or longer, or who suffers the most, which is something I often notice in US culture (school and work). There are many things to appreciate and admire about this system, and I’ll definitely miss it when I return home in August. I’m hoping that by recognizing and internalizing these qualities, combined with having slightly more self-awareness, I can learn to value my time and life outside of work in the US and try to become a more focused/productive worker when I do need to get things done.

2 thoughts on “5| Work is Everything, but it Shouldn’t Be

  • June 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm
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    Maggie,
    I couldn’t agree more that work is not everything. I also understand the struggle of putting work or school out of your mind once you are done. The truth is if something matters to you, you will stress about it. De-stressing is, at least for myself, a long process that involves thinking through why I shouldn’t be so stressed. That being said, work doesn’t need to be (and really shouldn’t be) an unpleasant experience. I can understand the idea of finishing work and then having fun, but wouldn’t it be better if your work was also fun and interesting? In my mind, the best career is one that is interesting and that allows you to enjoy yourself even as you do your work. Still, if you can’t find a career that you love I think the German mindset is the best. Life is more important than work, your actions and your feelings should reflect that fact.

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  • June 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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    It’s so interesting to me to hear about the work hard, play hard mentality. I feel like in the US we say that we have that mentality, but in practice people feel like they have to clock in at least 9-5 (or more in research environments).

    Would it be possible that one reason it is hard to detach from work is because as a student, you can’t leave class in class? It’s great that you are able to apply what you are working on in your life outside of class, but I can imagine that it could feel like you can’t get away to relax. Something that might help is doing something really active – I find that for me, dance class takes my mind off of nagging worries in the back of my mind. Meditation can help me stay more focused in the present as well.

    Good luck!

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