How to Avoid Burnout During the Pandemic
Life has changed considerably since COVID-19 unexpectedly welcomed itself into our lives. From online shopping and regular mask-wearing to sudden lockdowns and travel restrictions, it’s fair to say we live in a new and complex world.
For some, the changes are a welcome replacement to the fast-paced world we had become accustomed to. No more long commutes to and from work every day, no more endless meetings and workshops in the office, and no more rushing out of bed to make it to work in time…
For others, however, the familiar routine that had brought them comfort has now disappeared. Replacing it is an increased reliance on self-management, flexibility and online communication.
Regardless of whether we find the new circumstances more or less favourable, there’s no doubt that the COVID changes have had a significant impact on all of our work lives. What used to be the most staple and stable part of the day for most of us, rapidly became all but unpredictable.
These swift changes have brought with them increased job insecurities, financial pressures, isolation and a general increase in stress and worry, as captured in a recent Gallup survey.
Unsurprisingly, these are all ingredients for burnout, which many people are experiencing … but they don’t have to be. Lockdown, isolation and work from home can also be recipes for increased success, achievement, wellness and career and personal growth.
Below are six strategies to help you avoid burnout in these testing times and flourish while working from home.
1. Create Structure and Routine
Humans are creatures of habit. If we don’t deliberately create routines and structures that serve us, we’ll fall into routines that don’t serve us.
Break your day down by the hour, and determine what you’ll fill each slot with. Remember to incorporate breaks, meals and exercise. For example, from 8-9am you could go for a walk to the café for a coffee or breakfast, then begin work at 9am for two hours. Twenty minutes of exercise at 11am takes you into your next work shift, which ends at 12.30pm in time for lunch.
Continue filling out your daily structure, making sure you set aside time for some personal leisure and time to wind down before bed. Routine and structure will help you stabilise your days and make them predictable and manageable again.
Communication is always important in the workplace. It’s even more important when working from home, where face to face interaction is not possible.
Communicate regularly with your manager, colleagues and friends about concerns, hopes and expectations that you have. Explain your new structure and routine to your workplace so that they understand you won’t be at your desk the entire day, as well as agreeing on boundaries (e.g. no work calls after a certain hour). Communicate any struggles you’re facing, and don’t forget to communicate your successes!
3. Move regularly
It’s easy to become stagnant and unmotivated when we’re not in the office. Moving the body is a great way to activate the mind and increase motivation.
Take a short break every hour or so and do a quick stretch, dance or exercise to get that blood flowing.
4. Start a Hobby
Work can easily become all-consuming when mixing work and home environments. That’s unhealthy.
Find yourself a hobby that you can easily do from regularly. People all over the world have been sharing interesting hobbies they’ve picked up during the pandemic, including woodwork, gardening, sewing and knitting, online classes, cooking, yoga, music, painting, cooking and a host of others. Find one that inspires you.
5. Practice Self-Care
Practicing self-care is vital to our inner and outer health. It’s even more important during a stressful pandemic.
Self-care is not a luxury but a basic human need. Scheduling time every day to dedicate to our self-care is crucial in avoiding burnout and making the most out of a difficult situation. Self-care will look different from one person to the next, but the fundamentals of self-care include slowing down, practicing deep breathing, quieting the mind and connecting with the body. Examples of self-care include reading, writing, stretching, meditating, taking a bath and many others. Find a self-care routine that works for you and make it regular.
All humans crave connection throughout their lives. Cultivating connections is the key to thriving.
A recent Springfox report on workforce responses to COVID concluded that “connection is the key to pivot from worry to hope.” When we connect with other living beings, we feel less isolated, which not only increases our capacity to deal with hardship, but gives us a positive outlook on life. There are many online tools that allow us to remain connected during these testing times. Schedule them into your new structure to keep existing connections alive, and use this time to create new connections.
Working from home is challenging but it doesn’t have to be bad for us. Use the above six tips to embrace your new conditions and use them to your advantage.