Do you lie awake at night sweating over mechanical designs, running calculations through your head, unable to turn off the invasive thoughts of Newtonian physics?
Chances are you’re a neurotic mechanical engineer.
Neurosis is a state of being unbalanced, overly anxious, possibly deranged.
But, surely this can’t apply to your average mechanical engineer can it? Aren’t most engineers cool, calm, collected, emotionally detached, or is that all a big front?
Let’s take a look.
So, are mechanical engineers neurotic?
Some are, and if they aren’t then maybe they should be.
What do I mean by that? Well think about it, mechanical engineers have to deal with a lot of flak if things go wrong. There are huge safety and cost implications in many areas they work in. It’s probably not uncommon for mechanical engineers to be in a near permanent state of anxiety, especially those working in high profile industries such as aerospace.
That’s not to say that mechanical engineers in themselves are predisposed to neurosis. It’s likely that most of them were perfectly calm and relaxed as children playing with their Meccano and Lego sets without a care in the world. But there is something about the job that can slowly increase anxiety.
It goes without saying that you have to have a good eye for detail and be pretty meticulous as a mechanical engineer. If you let these character traits get out of hand, it can easily lead to an unbalanced state of mind.
Ok, maybe neurotic is taking things a bit too far. Extremely conscientious to the point of near neurosis might be a better description.
Am I a neurotic mechanical engineer?
Here are a few questions to assess how far gone you are:
- do you walk around wringing your hands with worry about your work?
- do you forget to do basic things like wash, eat, dress yourself properly?
- do people cross over the road to avoid you?
- do you get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t have a caffeine infusion as soon as you wake?
- do you think you are the second coming of Isaac Newton?
If you answer yes to at least three of those, you are almost certainly a neurotic mechanical engineer.
What can mechanical engineers do to ease their neurosis?
On a slightly more serious note, if you’re a mechanical engineer and you want to avoid becoming a gibbering wreck there are a few things you can do on a daily basis to keep yourself level-headed.
Keep things in perspective – it’s easy for such detail orientated people like engineers to let small things get completely out of proportion. Does it really matter if your design is a couple of millimetres out as long as it’s within tolerance? Or if you spill coffee on your computer frying the hard drive is it really worth having a full-on panic attack?
Make time to relax – mechanical engineers will always have deadlines to work to and sometimes this can be a cause of major stress, especially if there is a lot riding on your input. Also, many engineers tend to be of the introverted persuasion and having to deliver presentations of their work can also load on the stress. Therefore, it’s really important to take some time out to chill. For some that could mean taking up a relaxing sport like golf, for others, it may be listening to soothing classical music. The important thing is that it is something that lowers your cortisol levels, so bungee jumping is probably not recommended.
Socialise more – lots of studies have shown that regular social contact is important for balanced mental health. Often, mechanical engineers work in isolation or in small teams where individuals work quietly on their own thing. For this reason, to avoid neurosis mechanical engineers should try to make the most of their spare time by spending it with other people. Again, because many engineers are introverts this doesn’t come naturally, but even spending a little time with friends and family will improve their state of mind.
Eat well and exercise – ok, ok, you’re probably sick of hearing how you should eat better and exercise more, but the thing is your grandma was right – you are what you eat. And everyone knows exercise is good for you. So, if you’re a mechanical engineer and you want to avoid the neurosis trap, you’d better get on the kale smoothies, put on some Lycra and get to your nearest gym class.