#WisdomWednesday: how to stay ahead of corona burnout
We have lots of hope for this new year: vaccines are on their way and normality is in sight. But first we have to get through the rest of this pandemic winter, and understandably for a lot of people it isn’t easy. That’s why this #WisdomWednesday we’re going to put the focus back on wellbeing, and talk about some strategies to boost your resilience and prevent burnout:
Read the signs
Let’s start with a refresher on what burnout is: it’s a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. When you’re truly burned out, your batteries are completely empty and it can take a long time to recover. Startup founders tend to be highly motivated and ready to work long hours to realise their visions. But pushing yourself too far can end up being a danger to your success. The best thing is to read the signs early and make sure we don’t get to that point.
So what’s going with us during the pandemic? We’re home all day long: no commute, no outside appointments, no social engagements. We shouldn’t feel stressed, right? Wrong. With the lines between work and home blurring, many of us are finding it hard to set boundaries and end up being mentally engaged 24/7. The pandemic has changed business as usual and created endless uncertainty. With gyms, yoga studios and spas closed, our options for taking care of our wellbeing are more limited. We miss the people and fun occasions that give life variety and help us feel connected. It’s all a problem recipe if we don’t find new ways to cope.
Here are some signs that something’s off:
· Do you find yourself being extra negative, or feeling “down” constantly?
· Are you irritable with your family or coworkers?
· Do you find that you’re working longer hours while being less productive?
· Do you sleep eight hours and still feel exhausted when you wake up?
Sound familiar? Read on to see how we can nip this in the bud.
Set your boundaries
We’ve talked before about how we can get more done without burning out, especially in terms of time management. One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic in particular is setting boundaries between work and home. There are some simple changes we can make to reinstate those boundaries and make it easier for us to take a break.
To start with, defend your schedule. Have a clear work schedule and turn off your work computer, email notifications and everything else that gets you back into work mode after a certain time. If colleagues need to be able to get in touch with urgent matters, tell them you can be reached by phone (this really tends to raise the bar). Finally, plan in your downtime and exercise like you would schedule anything else important. “Empty” blocks of time have a way of filling up all by themselves.
Creating spatial boundaries is also key. It’s helpful if your work space is separated from the rest of your life so you can physically leave that space when work time is up. If you work at your kitchen table, at least put your laptop away when the day is done.
Build your toolkit
We all need more than one coping strategy to guard our wellbeing. What if you rely on your daily run, but you have a knee injury? Or you were counting on a yoga class, but your kid is homesick. If we’re armed with an array of different tactics to take care of ourselves, we’re more prepared for whatever life throws at us. Here are some different ways to weave resiliency into our day:
· Move all day long: Great if your Zumba class is helping you blow off steam, but if it conflicts with an important meeting you don’t want to be out of luck (that being said, refer back to the boundaries section in nine out of 10 cases). One hour of exercise also doesn’t cancel out 23 hours of sitting on our behinds. It’s key to get little bits of movement all day by walking around during calls, running up and down the stairs between deadlines, maybe throwing in a few push-ups while you’re waiting to be let into your virtual meeting. It all adds up!
· Take five: I know you don’t think you have five minutes to spare, but your Instagram usage says otherwise. Take that mindless social media time and put it into mini breaks to relax
your mind and help you focus better when you are working. Set a timer for a half hour or 45 minutes and stop, put down your work and move, listen to music or just stare out the window for five to give yourself a boost.
· Get it down on paper: being aware of your thoughts and feelings is an important part of preventing burnout. Put it all down on paper by keeping a journal to check in with yourself and reduce stress.
· Connect: even if you’re an introvert, sooner or later isolation will take its toll. When we’re feeling down, a lot of us tend to keep to ourselves, while connection is essential to our wellbeing. Can you talk it out with a family member? Which friends have you been neglecting lately? How about setting up a remote happy hour to get in some face time with colleagues? Even if we feel reluctant to reach out, connecting with others does us a world of good.
Just because you take breaks doesn’t mean you’re broken
We love this quote by author Curtis Tyrone Jones. It sums up burnout prevention strategy perfectly: by cutting yourself a little break, you’re saving yourself a world of trouble. To fight burnout, it’s important to take care of ourselves physically. But equally important is taking good care of our minds. That doesn’t mean pursuing relentless positive thinking, but rather acknowledging our fears and frustrations. We all need to give ourselves a pass and realise these are not normal circumstances, and even the luckiest ones among us can find it tough to deal with. We don’t need to create more stress by stressing about our stress. It’s OK not to be OK.
At the same time, it’s good to put our thoughts on something else by focusing on something that gives us joy, whether it be a hobby, a good novel or a long Skype session with your best friend. This breaks the endless negative feedback loops that can occur when we are “on” all the time. Taking a step back can help us see things from a broader perspective and charge our batteries. We know it can be easier said than done to make the time, but try to schedule it in like it’s a meeting with your most important customer. Because if you think about it, that’s exactly what it is.
What are your favourite ways to give yourself a break? Share it with your team: we’re all in this together!