Worry Fatigue

A few years ago, many a tech executive was known to wear the same outfit day in, day out. Perhaps it’s still a thing, I don’t know. Either way, this behaviour was justified as an effort to reduce decision fatigue, a term that denotes the deterioration of ones decision making as more and more decisions are made throughout the day.

I’ve had something that I’m dubbing “worry fatigue”1 on my mind for the past few days. This post is an attempt to clarify some of my thoughts on the matter.

For you to get a perspective on where I’m coming from, it’s worth noting that I’m a country boy through and through. At the ripe old age of 23 I’ve lived a total of about 3½ years in a city — a fairly small one at that.

Looking back on those 3 and a bit years, I now recognise a number of worries that were facts of my day to day city life and the accumulated effect they had on me. (Perhaps “worries” is too strong? “Concerns” maybe. I’ve yet to find the right word.)

These ranged from “did I bolt the door?” being the first question that popped into my head as soon as I started to relax and drift off to sleep, all the way to keeping an eye on the drunk walking towards me as I head home at night. From “I wonder how much the (already ludicrous) rent is going to go up by this time?” to feeling greasy by the time I got to work because the city was so polluted and dirty. The list goes on.

As with the decision making, it isn’t any single one of these small worries that has some great affect on you. Rather, it’s the accumulation of them over time. While decision fatigue is generally talked about in terms of days, I think these worries take a longer time to build up into something psyche-affecting.

For me that time period was about 2½ years. 2½ years of city life saw me ready to get on a plane, train, or automobile. Anything that’d get me out.

It took another year for me to finally put my foot down and say enough’s enough, but I did indeed get out. I went back to the country.

I’ve been home less than a year and a half and I am, not to be too melodramatic, a completely different person (physically, yes, but more to the point of this post) mentally.

Outside of work, my daily worries now more or less amount to “have the animals been fed?” and “what fencing did they manage to break last night?”. I can’t remember the last time I locked the front door at night. I’ve left the keys in the car ignition, the car door, and the house door overnight more times than I’d care to admit. It’s not even on my mind it matters so little. I can actually look up and see the stars at night.

The claustrophobia of the city and the draining “background concerns” it brings have been lifted. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

I’ve written on here before about big city tech life not being for everyone. This doesn’t just affect people who work in technology though. Whoever you are and whatever you do, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there are other options available2. Step 1 is to put your foot down.

  1. I’m sure there’s already a proper name for what I’m about to talk about, but where’s the fun in that. [return]
  2. Though admittedly those of us who work in tech are at an advantage thanks to the embracement of allowing employees to work remotely. [return]
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