It’s stating the obvious to note that lockdown has been stressful for most of us. Whether you’re working from home with young children, on furlough worrying about the future or facing multiple caring challenges, each of us has had to confront a new and unexpected reality with barely any notice and less preparation.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then, that statistics regarding the effects of lockdown on our mental health and general wellbeing are starting to come through showing that, with all the changes and added pressures of pandemic life, burnout seems to be a burning issue.
LinkedIn’s data analysis arm* recently found that burnout had doubled from March to April this year (2.7% to 5.4% respectively), while other research from Robert Walters recruitment recently found that just under a third (30 per cent) of workers said their mental health has been negatively impacted due to working from home.
So What Exactly Classifies As Burnout?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) list last year, describing three key symptoms:
- Experiencing feelings of exhaustion
- Feeling negative towards one’s job
- Reduced productivity and effectiveness professionally
How can you prevent burnout?
Even as lockdown gets lifted, the phased approach means that coming out will take time and the holy grail of ‘returning to a new normal’ will not see us returning to pre-pandemic life as we knew it.
As we grapple with the pressures (and opportunities) of road ahead, it’s going to be critical to look after ourselves and find the strength, resilience and balance to not burnout but blossom.
These strategies and tips will help to encourage your wellbeing and prevent burnout – as everyone keeps stating – this is a marathon not a sprint – so it’s worth preparing for the long haul.
Work Life Tips
- Set work limits – we all know it’s important but the truth is it can be really hard to stick to. So many people were step up to help their company’s through the crisis, it’s important to start setting reasonable work limits again, so that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ workload doesn’t become the new norm.
- Separate work from home – if you are able, try to create a different space to work in. If it’s the same space, can you at least clear away your work equipment as much as practically possible to return the space from a work to a living area?
- Take breaks – set your alarm each hour and step away from your computer. It’s especially easy, if you’re still working from home, to simply get sucked in and not move from the start to end of your day. Also make sure you put in breaks in your diary in between calls.
- Regular Check-ins – Ensure you have regular catch ups with colleagues to share how and what you are all doing. Not only will it help you to feel part of the team, but you may be able to share out workloads more evenly. Even a good whinge with workmates can help.
- Video Call vs Calling – Depending on your circumstances, you may feel Zoomed out or isolated. Seeing people in meetings is key if you’re not getting enough personal contact, but obviously you may feel it’s time to pick up the phone if you’ve spent the last two months on constant conference calls.
- Talk to your line manager – it’s not possible to be helped and supported unless people know you need it. It can be hard to admit that we are feeling wobbly, or low or overwhelmed or struggling but now, especially, this is the new norm for many. It’s important employers are aware so that they can try to put strategies in place to help. Explain your situation, your challenges and responsibilities at work and at home and assess if there’s room for change.
- Take your annual leave – it’s easy to think that because we can’t go anywhere because of the pandemic, we shouldn’t be taking leave, but actually it’s even more important. The increased pressure many are under mean it’s critical to take some proper time off – whether that’s a few weeks of shorter weeks, or a full week off. It’ll help you switch off properly to refresh, regroup and revive.
Wider Life Tips
- Exercise and get fresh air – Now most of us are able to go out it’s a real spirit reviver to do so – get those endorphins going and go for a run or even just a walk somewhere beautiful.
- Appreciate the little things – Try to look for the positives. If you notice little things each day that are good this will help keep you focussed on the bigger picture and life outside the workplace.
- Do something you love each day – if you can do just one thing that you love each day it will give you pleasure as well as perspective.
- Limit the booze – It’s easy to get into a rut of daily drinking or increased drinking – tempting as the 6pm wine o’clock may appear, alcohol doesn’t help. It may not be easy but try changing your routine and going for a walk or some exercise instead. And if you do drink, try to halve what you were having before.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep –A sober, early night’s sleep will help those experiencing stress or anxiety – it really is the best medicine.
- Smile and laugh – It’s well known that the act smiling and laughing send messages to the brain that create chemical reactions which then make us feel happy. So even if you’re not actually laughing, fake it till you feel it.
- Get Real! – after such an unprecedented period of isolation and limited horizons, get to know your neighbours, shop owners, fellow dog walkers, postmen and other locals. The act of talking to other humans will help to broaden your horizons once more and make the focus on your work less intense and all-consuming.
- Be Kind – be kind to yourself and acknowledge that this really is a difficult situation, it’s understandable to feel exhausted, disillusioned, scared and many more emotions. Check in with yourself to ensure these feelings don’t tip over and become overwhelming – and if you think they are, then don’t be afraid to talk to colleagues and friends and seek professional.