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ANNA K. SCHAFFNER

I am a writer, coach and a Professor of Cultural History at the University of Kent. I have published non-fiction, fiction, journalism, and academic works. I love writing. I  believe that we all have so much to learn from history and other cultures. All my life, I have also been deeply interested in psychology and how we can become better versions of ourselves. My main passion is helping the weary transition from a state of exhaustion or burnout into a state of vitality.

In my coaching practice, I combine state-of-the-art and science-based coaching techniques, especially insights from ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), with tried-and-tested ancient wisdom. While I always adapt my tools and methods to unique client needs, my general focus is the importance of deepening self-knowledge, as well as work on values and character strengths. I also integrate ancient Stoic techniques, with a focus on the circle of control, and on the art of letting go. New is not always better. Sometimes, it is the ancient models that hold the key to our most urgent present-day problems.

In Self-Improvement: A History, I share with you ten timeless truths about the art of self-improvement that stay the same across time and space. They were as relevant two thousand years ago as they are now. Time-honed and tested, these simple but profound truths appear again and again in the literature of self-improvement, simply putting on new costumes. I explore these insights on self-improvement in detail in my new book. They are also at the heart of my coaching practice.

Because I have been there myself, I am particularly interested in exhaustion in all its forms - weariness, burnout, lack of motivation, disengagement, unkind self-talk. In Exhaustion: A History, I explore the long history of exhaustion (and what we can learn from it in order to better to cope with our own). 

Today our fatigue feels chronic; our anxieties, amplified. Proliferating technologies command our attention. Many people complain of burnout, and economic instability and the threat of ecological catastrophe fill us with dread. We look to the past, imagining life to have once been simpler and slower, but extreme mental and physical stress is not a modern syndrome. Beginning in classical antiquity, Exhaustion: A History demonstrates how exhaustion has always been with us and helps us evaluate more critically the narratives we tell ourselves about the phenomenon.

Medical, cultural, literary, and biographical sources have cast exhaustion as a biochemical imbalance, a somatic ailment, a viral disease, and a spiritual failing. It has been linked to loss, the alignment of the planets, a perverse desire for death, and social and economic disruption. Pathologized, demonized, sexualized, and even weaponized, exhaustion unites the mind with the body and society in such a way that we attach larger questions of agency, willpower, and well-being to its symptoms. Mapping these political, ideological, and creative currents across centuries of human development, Exhaustion finds in our struggle to overcome weariness a more significant effort to master ourselves.