I always underestimate the mental energy it takes to get through October. Every year when this month rolls around, I’m surprised by the demands on my time and the depletion of my energy. I find myself wanting to vent to my friends and family just for the sake of complaining. Why did I sign up for so many things? Why are there so many meetings? How am I going to get through the rest of the semester? My friends and family can’t really do anything about all of my responsibilities. And the truth is, I’ll get through it. I always have in the past. But something about venting just feels so good.
Or does it?
I’ve been noticing recently that sometimes when I vent, I can’t seem to get myself to stop. It’s like trying to scratch an itch that won’t go away, no matter how long my fingernails or how much Benadryl I use. And I’ve noticed, too, that I’m certainly not the only one going through this. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had countless friends and coworkers stop by my office to complain about various things. This conference presentation or that job cover letter. And I’m happy to be a listening ear for them just as they are for me. We wouldn’t have gotten this far in this crazy grad school endeavor without being a support system for each other. But sometimes after they leave, I find myself feeling drained and weary, even if I started out in a good mood.
That’s why I found this article about “complainers in the office” so apt. In it, the author discusses how listening to complainers (especially the one who just want to vent and don’t want a solution to the problem) can actually be detrimental to our own wellbeing. And the author offers some suggestions for how to deal with people who just want to complain. I think there’s some great advice in there—like getting some physical distance from the situations you know are unhealthy for you. And I also think it’s useful to look at this through the lens of my own experiences as a complainer. Yes, sometimes we all need to vent. But from now on, I’m going to try to be a little more cognizant of how my mood could be affecting the people I come into contact with.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go pull on my invisibility cloak to protect me from the Eeyores.