Burn-out is a frequent issue in our society in general. Now that we’re in the midst of a health crisis that’s put our country on lockdown and thousands of people are working from home, the risk of burnout has increased exponentially. Fortunately, this shift is only temporarily. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long it will last.
Working from home can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. Add in an international pandemic, your partner is working from home too, home-schooling your kids every day, and a ban on in-person social gatherings, and we’re talking about stress levels that you may never have experienced before. Given the overwhelming sense of uncertainty about this entire situation, it’s important to look at your work habits and behaviors now to get in front of any potential burn-out.
As a coach and therapist, I’ve been talking to people non-stop the past few weeks about getting in front of burn-out. Here is what I share with them…
Setting specific work hours and personal hours is going to be important while you’re working from home. If you can, set a specific time to start work each morning and finish work each evening, and ask your boss and colleagues to try and respect those boundaries. For example, let them know that you won’t be responding to emails “after hours” if you can avoid it. Similarly, ask your family to try and respect your work time. Let your partner or your kids know that those hours are carved out for work – just like they would be if you were in the office.
Follow a Schedule
We’re all living in a bit of chaos right now, and one remedy for chaos is structure. Follow your same routine every work day as best you can. If you used to hit the gym before work, try going out for a run before you begin your work day. If you liked to read during lunch to give your brain a break, do that now while you work from home.
When you work in an office, breaks naturally occur throughout the day when colleagues stop by the office or you run out to grab lunch. Remember to take breaks like you normally would – put them in your calendar as a reminder if you need to.
It’s no secret that people are functioning on overwhelm and adrenaline right now. This makes self-care even more important. So what can self-care look like during a nation-wide lockdown? Good question…
Self-care isn’t limited to spa days and mani-pedis. Self-care is any action you take to intentionally support your health and well-being. Here is a list of my favorite self-care activities that are especially helpful to stop burn-out (including some that people often forget about!):
- Make sure you eat regularly – life is a lot harder when your body and brain are running on empty
- Get enough sleep
- Shower and get dressed – every day
- Take a long shower – especially if your kiddos are home 24/7 now, a shower can be the perfect place for some quiet time
- Read your favorite book
- Watch a movie you’ve always wanted to see
- Get out and move – physical activity gives a natural endorphin boost, which helps combat stress and relieve anxiety. Even a 15 minute walk (which is allowed!) can be super helpful!
- Take a tour of something you’ve always wanted to see – so many museums and national parks are offering free tours during this crisis… take advantage of it!
Minimize Your Work Space
When you work from home, it’s tempting to carry your computer with you as you move through the house. This habit weakens the divide between work life and personal life, since it makes you accessible no matter where you are. You don’t carry your computer into the kitchen at the office. It’s impossible to apply the same approach at home.
By carving out a dedicated work space in your home, you’re drawing invisible lines around your work life to keep it contained. This can stop it from bleeding into important parts of your personal life (like the bedroom). Plus, it gives your brain a clear barrier when you’re working and when you’re not. If you step out of your work space for a few minutes, your brain recognizes that as a break and has time to reset.
If you have kiddos at home, you might have to get creative when it comes to managing your roles as a parent and as a professional. If you have important meetings one day, see if you can set up virtual playdates for your kids with other families. Or, ask Nana and Papa if they can do some virtual babysitting if you need uninterrupted time to work on a big project.
Ask For Help
We all know the saying, “It takes a village” – and I think we’re learning together just how true that is. One of the biggest blessings I’ve seen over the past few weeks is how families and communities have come together to support one another. So while it might not be your natural tendency… if you need help, ask for it. That might mean asking your partner to cook dinner when that’s normally something you would do. Or, asking your neighbor to bring out your bins on garbage day if you have an important presentation to prepare for. Whatever it is, now is the time to learn how to depend on others. Because we’re all in this together.
We’re all facing these challenging times, and support is more important than ever. Stay connected to colleagues (virtual happy hours are the best), set up daily or weekly calls with friends and family members, and check on your neighbors when you can. Human beings are social creatures and aren’t meant to live in isolation. Giving yourself permission to shut work down and spend time (virtually) with others can actually do a lot to curb burn-out.
The truth of the matter is that life is not normal right now, and we don’t really know when it will return to normal. Living under highly-stressful conditions might create some temporary limitations in your performance at work. Yes, it’s absolutely important to still do a good job. But, your expectations of yourself might need to be adjusted during this time. If you don’t already know, learn what “good enough” means and practice it.
No matter how well you do everything mentioned above, you might still find yourself on the edge of burn-out and in need of some extra support. I’m providing teletherapy and telecoaching services to clients during this time. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression, relationship stressors or work related stress, reach out to me so we can find some time to talk. I’m here for you.