A year ago I wrote and posted an article about at home worker burnout. I was feeling the effects of being burnt out, so my natural inclination was to look for more information on the issue. At that time the current studies, articles, and news reports were showing that two-thirds of at-home workers were suffering from burnout, so I was definitely not alone. The only problem was that while some of us were/are dealing with the effects of being burnt out as an at home worker, new forms of burnout have been creeping up on us. I have read about “pandemic fatigue,” “covid burnout,” “parental fatigue,” and “teacher burnout.” Oh, and I can’t even imagine the incidence of burnout/fatigue in our healthcare workers. Regardless of what you call it, let’s face it, a lot of us are all feeling burnout out!
It has been almost two years since the global pandemic was declared, and since then people have experienced so many life changes. I’m sure that if look at your personal situation you will have a whole page of changes and stressors that have contributed to your current state of mind.
Your current state of mind may just be…you’re burnt out too!
The Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
If you are suffering from burnout chances are you have felt some (or all) of the following:
Unmotivated – “I don’t feel like doing anything!”
Apathetic – “I don’t care.”
Short-tempered – “Leave me alone, I’m trying to work here!”
Overly pessimistic or negative – “Sure…you try that, it’s your time you’re wasting.”
Tired / No Energy – “Maybe I’ll hit snooze two (or three) more times!”
This list only gets us started and doesn’t even include feelings of loneliness, or the physical symptoms like headaches, stomach issues, insomnia, and anxiety. And again, this list of symptoms is a very abbreviated list.
You are Burnt Out, Now What?
If you read the list above and identified with it, then you are probably asking yourself what you can do about it. The good news is that you can get out of your burnout funk. Just remember, it didn’t take you overnight to reach the burnout point, it’s not going to fix itself overnight either.
Personal: Acknowledge how you are feeling, focus on taking care of yourself. Try to focus on things you can control like eating habits, sleep schedule, staying hydrated, and practicing mindfulness. Trust me when I say that the Calm app feels like a trusted friend these days (not sponsored…I just really love the app). These are not easy things to do, however, starting to build new and healthy habits around your well being is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Work: Give yourself a start time, and a stop time each day. If you work from home it is easy to get so caught up in doing the work that we forget to create those boundaries that keep us from feeling like we are always working. This in turn adds to the pressure and stressors in your personal life and home. If you worked in an office you would shut down and go home…do the same from your home office.
If you work outside the home, it’s just as important to set boundaries for yourself. This could mean not bringing unnecessary work home with you, or simply saying NO when a request crosses over a boundary you have created for yourself. Decide what works for you and then commit yourself to drawing that line in the sand.
Home: Pay attention to your environment. Your physical environment makes a difference when it comes to your mood…and your overall sense of well being. A cluttered room can make you feel anxious, or boxed in. Natural light can make you feel awake during the day, and a dark room has a positive effect on your sleep. If you are feeling stuck or unmotivated it may help to focus on your immediate environment to help get you back on track. Those times I feel unmotivated with work I will stop and quickly clean off my desk. I have found that this small action gets me more focused and gives me a little pick-me-up when returning to my work.
Family: Set boundaries and take time for fun. This is definitely one of the harder areas to focus on, especially when you have kids (even harder when they are young). Having boundaries gives everyone a chance to collect their thoughts and take a minute to breathe. This could be as simple as taking 5-minutes in the bathroom while a little watches TV, or designating a personal space of your own when your kids are older. I saw a pattern emerging in my own home that this is helping with. It goes like this, “what’s dad’s is dad’s, what’s son’s is son’s, and what’s mom’s is everyone’s.” Have you ever felt that way? If so, having a desk space, or shelf in a closet that is off limits is one way to reclaim some stomped over boundaries.
Remember to have some fun and laugh! Designate a movie night, or take turns telling jokes at dinner. Laughing is a great mood booster, and really bad Dad jokes can be pretty hilarious. You can also add some spontaneous fun…dancing in the kitchen while preparing food usually makes me smile.
Friends: Socialize. Remember all those friends and coworkers that we used to happy hour with, or have lunch with? Or the girlfriend you used to have playdates with? Yes, them! Back at the beginning of the lockdown orders, you couldn’t go on social media without seeing a screenshot of friends drinking wine over Zoom. We need to spend time with others to help us relax and unwind. If you haven’t done so in a while then now is the time! If you can’t spend time physically with them start a chat thread and share what’s going on in your day…good, bad, and ugly. I have a few of these chat text threads and they really do help my state of mind.
Evaluate your priorities and adjust accordingly. Take a step back and figure out what your current priorities are. Write them down if you need to. Then as you go through your day when you start to do a task or project, ask yourself if it relates to your set priorities or if it can wait. We often get so busy doing tasks or work that we aren’t necessarily doing the right work.
Don’t be afraid to get help. If you start to feel that it’s more than just burnout then it may be time to get help. If you are having feelings of helplessness, if you are struggling to take care of yourself or others, or if you are relying on alcohol or drugs to cope, then it’s time to reach out to your physician or a mental health professional.
While this list is not an all inclusive guide to burnout, and none of these suggestions offer an overnight remedy, setting boundaries and practicing good self-care will go a long way towards getting you on the road to recovery.
Please share in the comments any tricks or tips that have helped when you have felt burnout out or fatigued.