How to Avoid Burnout During the Pandemic and Beyond
We’ve been grappling with the effects of the pandemic for the better part of a year, and many of us have been feeling the effects of burnout—both personally and professionally—for months now. At home, what started out feeling like a bit of an adventure, complete with forays into baking projects and virtual dance parties, has become quite the slog as we continue to do so much from the confines of our couches and kitchens.
Meanwhile, many of us who lead businesses have spent month after month attempting to adjust our operations to meet the demands of an ever-changing societal landscape while working with limited resources that seem to shrink each day. And if that couch or kitchen table has become your office, the boundary between the two—home and work—has likely all but disappeared.
Research has shown that since the pandemic began, we are actually attending more meetings and logging more hours than we were before—and it certainly feels that way. Not to mention the added burden of managing a household where many members are spending all of their time. While your pets may be happy, chances are you’re feeling the tension of these times in more ways than one.
But there are things you can do to counter that sense of burnout, accomplishing what needs to be done while still tending to your sanity. Let’s look at some options.
- Draw the line between work and life. This is a hard one, especially since we’ve just established that that boundary is all but gone, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep work and life from bleeding into each other entirely. Start by setting (reasonable) working hours for yourself—and sticking to them. If nine or ten hours is the norm, that’s fine, but try to shut down when you hit that limit, closing your computer, and avoiding email until the next morning.
- Think, too, about the spaces in which you work. While the pandemic may have your logging in from home, make sure you spend those designated work hours in an “office”-like space, rather than, say, your bed. Keeping your work confined to specific physical areas will help you transition into other activities when the time comes.
- Step away from the screen. We know some organizations have their employees online and on Zoom all day long. If that’s the nature of your work, we get it, but your eyes and brain still need a break. When it is time to shut down, consider leaving your tech behind as well—if only for a short period of time. Go for a walk, attempt a more complicated recipe than you’d usually try for dinner and dig in with your family, or pick up an old-fashioned book (we’re happy to provide some recommendations if you need them). Even an hour away from your screen can help you hit the reset button and feel more refreshed when you get back to it.
- Know when to say no. One tricky issue the pandemic has presented us with? Those we work with know it’s unlikely that we have other plans. That means it’s easier for them to schedule that late evening meeting, “pick your brain” on the weekends, and add extra items to your to-do list. But just because you aren’t rushing out the office door to hear your favorite band play at a local concert venue or make it to your son’s basketball game doesn’t mean your personal time has become irrelevant. It’s great to go the extra mile when you can, but remember, your mental health can certainly be reason enough to skip it.
- Try something new. With so many restrictions and worries out there, many of us have found ourselves locked into routines that feel, well… restrictive. Make time to get out of your head, and out of the box, whether that be your living room or your day-to-day activities, with something new. It could be as simple as working from your back porch if you usually set up inside, taking a new route on your run, or introducing a fresh board game to your family. You might consider implementing a new idea at work, or finally getting to that book you’ve been thinking about writing for years (or starting in on your second).
The reality is, though we continue to face some of the greatest challenges we have encountered in our lifetime, finding our way out of some of the stress—and into new opportunities—will help us make it through long-term. And if you need some inspiration, we’re here to help.