Open Thinkering


Tag: mental health

Who are you without the doing?

A podcast I listened to recently took the structure of a Q&A hosted by Jocelyn K. Glei. The theme was ‘tender discipline’ and another episode was referenced where she asks the question someone once asked her: who are you without the doing?

Earlier this week, I wrote a personal email to my wife for the first time in a a long time. While we live together and are in constant communication either verbally or via a Telegram backchannel, sometimes things (kids, events, stuff) get in the way of having important conversations.

I kept the email short, saying that I’ve been talking for years about taking December off work. I told her that I’m done with 2020, that I don’t want to put any more energy into this year of all years.

As a result, we’ve worked out that Team Belshaw will be OK if I finish up my work next week and take three weeks off to stop… doing. That’s such a relief! I’ve spent the last couple of days checking with others that my gently downing tools won’t affect them too much.

The funny thing is that I’ll probably still end up doing things that look a bit like ‘work’. I’ll no doubt still head over to my office to do some writing. There’s a bunch of work-related reading I want to do. I’ll probably occasionally check in on the multiple Slack instances of which I’m a member. But mainly I’ll walk and think and just be.

I need to recharge, and realise that I’m privileged to be able to decide when to pick up and put down my work. Nevertheless, effective care for others starts with caring for ourselves. So I’m looking forward to spending more time with myself without the… doing.

This post is Day 71 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Are you OK?

I wanted to share a couple of things that I found via Jason Kottke. The first is this infographic made for healthcare workers in Colorado:.

Infographic with column ranging from green ('Thriving') through to red ("In Crisis ")

The reason I think this is helpful is that it’s sometimes difficult to spot in yourself and others when things start slipping from “Surviving” to “Struggling”.

If you do find that someone you know needs some help, Kottke links to an article published by Kathryn Gordon this time last year entitled How to help a friend through a tough time, according to a clinical psychologist.

She points out how difficult it can be to help others if you haven’t been thought what they’re suffering:

When we are not equipped to support loved ones through a hard time, our discomfort can compel us to point out a bright side or offer a simple solution, which may come across as dismissive. Sometimes, my patients say they walk away feeling judged or burdensome. While putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and treating people how we want to be treated are generally useful principles, they are not always the most effective ways to cultivate compassion. It is hard to imagine being in a situation that you have not actually been in, and people differ in what they find comforting.

Gordon goes on to give five pieces of advice:

  1. Ask them how they are feeling. Then, listen non-judgmentally to their response.
  2. Show them that you want to understand and express sympathy.
  3. Ask how you can support them and resist jumping in to problem-solve.
  4. Check in to see if they are suicidal.
  5. Reassure them, realistically.

I found these resources really useful, so thanks to Kottke for sharing them. I hope by re-sharing these resources here means they reach a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen them.

This post is Day 69 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at


In my latest CBT session today I once again confronted the spectre of perfectionism that haunts my life and work.

It’s a difficult thing to discuss because most people would frame this as having ‘high standards’ of oneself. Perfectionism is different, though, and my therapist helpfully differentiated it for me by describing it as ‘not looking after yourself’.

There are so many facets to this in my life. Yes, I do regular exercise, but I’m competitive when doing so. I remember seeing a video once where the actor Will Smith said that if you got on a treadmill next to him at the gym he would die rather than getting off first. That’s me.

Even during lockdown when there’s no-one to compete against, I’ll compete against myself. It’s a losing battle as I approach 40, I literally can’t run as fast as I used to.

I compare myself against other people and against younger versions of myself all the time. I try and act in ways to control people’s impressions and opinions of me. To use the terms I use with my therapist, I ‘put on a mask’.

Admitting this to myself is actually more difficult than admitting it to others. So just to be clear, I am explicitly telling myself that it’s OK to be me, that I’m allowed to slow down and take a break, and that there’s no point in being in competition with anyone, let alone myself.

This post is Day 14 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at