We are now a nation of remote workers. While some of us are digital nomads — used to the rhyme and rhythm of working from home — most of us are not. Taking care now to prevent burnout is more important than ever.
Even when operating under normal circumstances, more than half of all employees in the United States feel burned out at least some of the time, and almost one in four feel burned out very often or always. Here’s why this matters, maybe now more than ever: this doesn’t just impair our productivity — it can damage our mental and physical wellbeing, too. Evidence links burnout with a weakened immune system and heart disease — the antithesis of what we want right now. And let’s face it, during a pandemic, we are more at risk of burnout and emotional exhaustion. We are more likely to feel depleted and isolated, leaving us with less to give. We are all on edge living in a time that has no real historical parallel.
So here are five smart ways to work smart in these unusual times so that you can help keep burnout at bay!
1. Move Your Body.
Set an alarm. Every hour get up. Shake your body. Stretch your arms to the sky. Bend down and reach your fingers towards the ground. Bend from side to side. Try ten jumping jacks. Jog in place. Get animalistic with a down dog and some cat / cow poses. Do any movement that moves blood through your body, loosens your muscles, and gives you a brief respite from sitting (or perhaps standing) in front of a screen. Also, I am loving Dance Church. Created by Kate Wallich in 2010 to bring dance to non-dancers, it’s the party you want to go to, just happening now in your living room. Designed for humans of all shapes, sizes, creeds, and identities (and their pets, now that it’s virtual) as a safe container for free expression through movement — with some fantastic dance music. Part dance party / part workout, it’s an amazing way to let the ya-yas out. I’ve been livestreaming the class (free, every Wednesday and Sunday) and doing a Zoom so I can do it with my friends and feel a sense of togetherness. Great for mind, body, soul.
2. Fresh Air — Get Some.
Cabin fever is real, especially for folks not used to working from home regularly. Without the imposed excursions of a commute and set lunch breaks, we can get squirreled away in our homes and forget to go out. Create a routine for yourself. Every morning, try to take a break and get outside (social distancing please!) and get some fresh air. And then, every day, take a post-prandial solo stroll. Make getting outside a habit — it will help you stay balanced mentally and physically.
3. Clock In / Clock Out
Crafting a daily routine with consistent parameters will help eliminate the stress of constantly “winging it.” When your office is your home and your home is your office, without the physical separation of “work time” and “personal time,” it’s easy to just keep working — which can lead to stress and burnout. Create a work schedule for yourself and stick to it as much as you can. Start at the same time every day. Clock out around the same time as well. Take your fresh air and move your body breaks at the same time. Eat lunch at the same time. Endeavor to keep your work schedule as consistent as you can. Routine is reassuring when you have to create your own schedule. You no longer have the rhythm of a commute and morning coffee talk and lunchtime as schedule markers. It’s up to you to create a new routine so that you can normalize things as much as possible.
4. Get Square: If You Start to Feel Stressed, Try Box Breathing
You may feel anxiety creeping up — and that’s okay. If that happens to you, try this breathwork technique known as square or box breathing — a very simple and effective way to manage stress in the moment. Here’s how it works:
- Breathe in for a count of four (1—2—3—4). See the air entering your body and feel it expanding your lungs.
- Hold that breath in for a count of four (1—2—3—4).
- Now exhale fully for a count of four (1—2—3—4).
- Hold for a count of four (1—2—3—4) before repeating the cycle and breathing in again for a count of four.
Do this for at least five cycles. Studies show that this and other breathing techniques can successfully help promote relaxation.
5. Nix Notifications When You Have to Focus
Yes. These are scary times. The news is coming at us fast, furious — but we can control when we consume this hard-hitting information. A constant deluge of anxiety-inducing notifications is just going to raise your stress levels and make it that much harder to stay focused. Consider making a hard limit for yourself in terms of checking the news — two times a day, maybe three. Try and be present, as much as possible, with what is in front of you. You’ll feel better for it.
Try these simple methods to stave off burnout — let us know if they help you out — we’d love to hear about it. These are unusual times, but you’ve got this!
About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.