Monday, August 24, 2020

Feeling Burned Out? What to Do Right Now

While working during the pandemic, 37 percent of American workers report they're putting in longer hours, with 40 percent saying they've experienced burnout during this time.

That's not good. Since 75 percent of us have experienced burnout in the past, we know how devastating it can be for us professionally and personally. Burnout isn't something you take a pill for and feel better in the morning. It saps you of energy, it robs you of creativity, it depletes any reserves you might have and you feel completely overwhelmed.

The stakes are high. For those who are trying to deal with the fallout from the pandemic (job at risk, educating children at home, isolation), experiencing burnout can be a blow that will be very difficult to deal with on top of everything else.

Right now, everyone is still trying to figure it all out. But the reality is that it's hard. Bosses are overwhelmed as they try to lead teams remotely. Workers are stressed as they worry about the next paycheck, caring for their family or feel the pain of ongoing isolation.

Never has self-care been more important. It may be difficult for a colleague or boss or friend to know that you're struggling when they can't see you in person. They may be unaware that you're not sleeping, that you're working on the weekends and at night and that you feel constantly overwhelmed but are afraid to say anything.

Right now, right this minute, make a commitment that things are going to be different. Say to yourself: "I have to make changes if I want to stay healthy so that when this pandemic is behind us, I can travel. I can visit friends and family. I can go for that walk on the beach. I can go back to working in an office and my kids can go back to school and I can actually go a party."

(Feel free to substitute anything that you're looking forward to doing -- going dancing, fishing, to a basketball game, etc.)

I can't urge you enough to make changes. Burnout can really sock a punch -- it can lead to lots of physical ailments from headaches to heart problems and can derail you for a long time.

Here's some ideas for making a change. You don't have to do all of them, but make a commitment to implement one and then move onto the next one until you have flipped your life in the right direction. Try to:

  • Set a schedule. It's easy to check email at 10 p.m. on your phone or prop your laptop on your bed to "catch up" if you can't sleep. Stop it. Decide on a quitting time, and stick to it. Put your laptop away, out of sight -- and definitely out of the bedroom. Turn off phone notifications. Let your colleagues and boss know that you've got a "quitting time" and are going to stick to it so that you'll be refreshed and ready to go the next day.
  • Have "hello" and "goodbye" rituals. When you worked away from home, you probably had your little habits -- stopped for a coffee at the shop near your work, listened to NPR on your commute. After work, your "goodbye" ritual was to call your Mom as you headed home and then when you got home, to have a beer while watching ESPN. While you may not want to exactly mimic those things now, try to establish such routines so you mentally click when work starts and ends each day.
  • Consult your bucket list. Maybe you always planned to travel more, which isn't possible right now. But you also always wanted to learn how to paint or cook better or even learn a new language. That's all possible with the wonders of the Internet, where there are free classes on just about anything. Schedule time for bucket-list pursuits, and then feel free to enjoy them.
  •  Exercise. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. Your body needs it, your mind needs it and it's important if you want to be healthy enough to do the things you love in the future. Like I said, it doesn't matter what you do -- dance to "Frozen" with your kids, walk in place while watching "Friends," ride a bike or train for a virtual marathon.
Believe me, you're not alone in what you're going through. We've all got to figure out what works for us and stick to it. I recently joined a Twitter book club and have really enjoyed getting to know a new group of people. Like most book clubs, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the book, but find that we laugh a lot and find comfort in knowing that others are feeling some of the same things.

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