Life and work are not always as easy as we wish they would be. Even in a world where there appears to be a greater sense of flexibility with working from home, it tends to bring us a false sense of hope about how we will feel or what we’ll accomplish each day. In fact, in many cases, it feels more challenging to get away from the office, even in your own home. Accessibility serves a great purpose for us as we all have different needs and comfort levels in a COVID world. However, accessibility isn’t always a good thing when you realize you’re still working at 9 pm and forgot to have dinner.
We’ve all been there in the depths of burnout. It’s a feeling that’s hard to avoid, even if you’re working in the office with the opportunity to step away and go home at 5 o’clock. Maybe you’re good at sticking to your 9-to-5 routine, but you’re still feeling the weight of the world. Everyone experiences burnout differently. It could be from life or work or a summation of the two. Whatever it is, you’re probably looking for a way to get out of your rut before you’re drowning.
1. Track your stressors. This may be the first thing you need to do when you start feeling your energy decrease. You don’t have to wait until then, as it may be helpful for you to think about your stressors before they happen. Have you ever tried to nail down what specifically brings you stress in your workday? Or even outside your work hours? Tracking patterns will help alleviate some of the stressors that can arise in your day and give you the chance to reflect and take action to create and maintain better environments. If you can identify the issue, you’ll be better equipped to identify the source of your problem and decide how you want to deal with it.
2. Find time that belongs to you only. Do your days feel like they belong to everyone but you? Maybe you’re a working mom, and you start your day by taking care of the kids, making them lunch and sending them off to school on your way to work. Or maybe you’re working a job where you’re constantly executing tasks for other people before getting the chance to tackle your to-do list. Whatever the case may be, by the time you lay down each night, you’re probably wondering where the day went, and you’re thinking about how you’re going to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. There’s no need to get caught in that cycle, though it’s easy to do. A good way to avoid this is to find time that belongs only to you. Whether that’s setting aside 30 minutes to an hour in the morning or evening to exercise, listen to your favorite playlist, or sit in silence in your favorite chair, you need to find time for your recovery. Think about everything you do to take care of others in some capacity every day – you should know you deserve that for yourself, too. Create a time and space that’s yours and don’t let anyone else disturb it. Recenter, refocus, recover and get back to it!
3. Focus on the next three things. While a to-do list can help track what you need to accomplish in a day or a week, it can also be the very thing burdening you. When you get to making long lists of everything you need to accomplish, it’s only human to trick your mind into thinking it all needs to be done in the next hour or even by the end of the day. It’s true that you may need to finish several things in order to meet your deadlines, but everything you’ve written down to finish in a week is not what you need to do in the next five minutes. If you’re guilty of letting your to-do list run your life, this is your sign to change up your routine. No, you don’t have to do away with it altogether; just adjust your approach. Ask yourself: “What are my priorities for the day, or even just the hour?” And then only focus on the top three priorities, and don’t even think about the rest until you’re finished. Breaking up your list will help you feel less overwhelmed about everything you need to do.
4. Eliminate Zoom fatigue. Yes, Zoom could be the culprit of your burnout. Try changing up your Zoom routine for a day or two and see how it helps. There are studies upon studies about Zoom fatigue and the psychological effects it has on our brains. Maybe you have video calls where you don’t even say a word, but somehow they’re still as exhausting as if you were running the meeting. Have you ever noticed how many times you look at the little box in the corner that shows your face? It’s probably more than you think. We’re prone to look at ourselves, which means we’re apt to constantly adjusting our hair, thinking that we need to smile more, adjusting our posture, or feeling concerned about what’s happening in the background.
“Is the kitchen clean?” “Are my shoulders showing too much?” “Are my kids running around?” “Are the dogs getting into something they shouldn’t?” By the time you’ve asked yourself all these questions, you realize that while you’ve been thinking about everything in your own environment, you’ve also been taking notes, giving thoughtful responses and listening to others speak. If you’re feeling fatigue just thinking about those scenarios, then something has to change. Try turning off the self-view mirror on your next call so that you can instantly remove those distractions from your meetings. If you don’t want to Zoom at all, ask whoever you’re meeting with to chat on the phone and even try taking a walk outside while you do so.
5. Take a day off. This one seems obvious, but how many of you are sitting with a full load of paid time off? Give yourself some grace and don’t worry about what you may be missing if you take a day or two to yourself. You may even be the person whose boss is begging you to take it – so do it! When you decide to take time off, don’t do it for any reason other than that you need to relax and do something you love. Have you been meaning to meet a friend for lunch you haven’t seen in a while? Have you been itching to take a trip for which you haven’t had the time or made time? In other words, you should fill your time off by doing things that help you recover from your burnout and allow you to sink into positive energy that refuels you for when it’s over. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have less reason to take time for yourself.
We often take ourselves way too seriously. In turn, we end up taking everything else too seriously as well. Don’t let the mundane courses of action from your life and your job steal your joy from you. Burnout is going to happen and has probably already happened several times for you. Life goes beyond just your work and responsibilities; it’s a matter of being reminded that you can create time and prioritize yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else knows you, so give yourself what you need to keep going and avoid the burnout before it happens.