Updated 16th March 2020
Self-care and Mental Health
EA can demand a lot from people, and there is a sense of urgency to act, but it is important to do so in a healthy way. Self-care is about making sure that you take care of your mental and physical health, and that you do not do altruistic things at the cost of your own personal health.
“We don’t need people making sacrifices that leave them drained and miserable. We need people who can walk cheerfully over the world” - Cheerfully by Julia Wise.
EAs on self-care
Many people in the EA community have contributed advice and shared their experiences about being an altruist:
- Helen Toner on Sustainable Motivation (24 minute talk from EA Global SF 2019).
- See these Practical steps for self-care from Boston EA.
Julia Wise on
- Why it is important to “walk cheerfully over the world”.
- Burnout and Self-care.
- Why it is important to balance your resources across your different goals.
- Countering Imposter Syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is quite common among EAs.
80,000 hours on why self-care is important to succeed in any job, and some recommendations about tackling mental health issues.
Lukas Gloor on how to adjust if EA seems overwhelming.
Elizabeth on Burnout: What it is and how to treat it.
Holly Morgan on dealing with guilt as an effective altruist.
The long (but excellent) “Replacing Guilt Series” by Nate Soares on dealing with guilt productively.
Holly Morgan on scrupulosity (feelings of excessive guilt and moral personal responsibility).
Hayden Wilkinson’s talk on “Doing less good, but for good reason” presents a mathematical approach to considering burnout risk.
Many people find it helpful to be part of a community of like-minded people. To see if there is an EA group in your area check out the map of local groups.
EA Community point people
Julia Wise and Sky Mayhew are point people for the EA community. They are people you can come to with concerns about problems you’ve noticed or experienced in the EA community. The best way to contact them is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Julia anonymously.
Facebook Support Group
There are many apps that are good for helping with your mood and mental state of mind. Here are some examples founded by people in the EA community:
- Improve your Mood tools on Clearer Thinking - Free
- MindEase - Anxiety and Stress Relief App - Free
- UpLift - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy App to help combat depression
Mental Health Resources
Some health care professionals within the EA community have created some mental health resources:
- The EA Mental Health Navigator aims to boost EA community well-being by connecting EA members with mental health resources.
- Scott Alexander on Anxiety
- Scott Alexander on Depression
- Julia Wise on Mania and Psychosis
- Julia Wise on Dealing with Alcohol Problems
Value Drift and Staying Motivated
Most people in the EA community are young, and therefore their greatest impact could lie in the medium- to long-term, when they are at the peak of their careers. However, not everyone in the EA community will continue to act according to effective altruism principles throughout their lives.
“Value drift” is a term used to describe various ways people greatly reduce or cease their altruistic actions. The causes could be a change in values, a loss of motivation, or a change in lifestyle. The percentage of people drifting away from EA has been estimated by Peter Hurford using the EA Survey data, and by Joey in “Empirical Data on Value Drift”. Marisa Jurczyk conducted a qualitative analysis of value drift in EA.
If you are highly motivated now, but think you are likely to experience value drift, you may wish to focus on having an impact in the short term.
Also you may wish to take action now to reduce the chances that your values and motivations will change. For practical things you can do to make it less likely for you to change your values, and more likely for you to remain motivated, see the tips in Marisa Jurczyk’s qualitative analysis, and this list in Darius Meissner’s “Concrete Ways to Reduce the Risk of Value Drift”.
Note that while it seems reasonable to take steps to keep your motivation high, it is debatable whether we should take steps to prevent your values from changing as it is possible that your future self will have better values than your current self.
Many people in the EA movement get significant value out of learning to be more productive in their work. Here are some tools and readings to help you get more out of your day.
Peter Hurford’s article “Productivity 101 for Beginners” is a good starting point for thinking about productivity. His article “How to Be Productive” provides a more in-depth look at particular methods.
Improve Decision Making and Reducing Cognitive Biases
- Clearer Thinking’s decision making tool
- Calibrate Your Judgment (improves your ability to think probabilistically)
- Cognitive Concepts (sent weekly)
- StickK or Beeminder (using financial penalties to motivate goal attainment)
- Habitica (gamifies your goals)
Lynette Bye is a Productivity Coach for people in the EA community. She writes about productivity and interviews EAs on their productivity techniques on her blog. For a brief overview of her work see her Planning Productivity EAG Talk and her 28 quick productivity tips.
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Scott Young’s The Little Book of Productivity
- Paul Christiano’s Workflow
- 10 Step Anti-Procrastination Checklist
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