Let’s review for a moment. This past year you’ve had your entire life thrown upside down, sat in your home for days on end feeling uncertain about what the future holds, watched a nail-biting Presidential election and when you thought it was all finally over and you were just starting to feel like there was hope again, there was a Riot at the Capitol.
It’s Not Just You: The Fatigue is Real
You’ve been managing crisis after crisis while simultaneously losing the things we used in the past to manage our anxiety and stress like traveling, visiting family and celebrating holidays and birthdays. Even if you’ve found yourself in a pretty good groove working from home and having zoom family meetings, the overall effect of being at a heightened state of anxiety with limited outlets has taken a toll.
Harvard Business Review recently published “The Big Idea Series: The Burnout Crisis” and as a part of the series a group of researchers conducted a survey with 1500 participants in 46 different countries to learn more about how individuals were coping with the pandemic and working from home. Not surprisingly the researchers found the vast majority of participants report an increase in mental health issues.
While our nation is on the “other side” of this crisis, you may be feeling more exhausted than this time last year, struggling to focus at work and overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. You’re “over it” and all you want to do is crawl under the covers and take a month-long nap. If you can relate: you’re not alone.
It might seem like focusing on self-care is the best solution but when it comes to managing burnout it’s a process of shifting your mindset about what you should or should not be achieving as well as learning how to structure your day-to-day life so you’re prioritizing your health over everyone and everything else.
Remember You’re Human (and that’s a good thing)
There’s a lot of self-judgement when it comes to burnout. The rise of technology has created a world in which we’re expected to keep up with the machines that run our lives.
The problem is you’re not a machine, you’re a human being which means you have thoughts, feelings, aches, pains and you experience stress. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to embrace your humanness and practice self-compassion.
Practicing self-compassion doesn’t mean you feel sorry for yourself or you don’t take accountability for your actions. It means you make a conscious choice every day to do things that allow you to be happy and healthy. It also means you accept the frustrations and disappointments of life, not as something you failed, but as a natural part of the human condition.
Redefine Your Meaning of Achievement
In our #hustle society there is an emphasis on “killing it” all the time and if you’re not working 16 hours a day, a regular at Soul Cycle, an avid reader and have time to throw dinner parties then there must be something wrong with you.
What if “killing it” is actually “killing you?” What if you redefined achievement and success and decided that feeling calm and in control is how you want to feel every day? It can be tough in our social media obsessed world to stop focusing on what other people have and simply focus on how you feel every day.
Focus on what you can subtract from your life
When we start to recognize we’re approaching potential burnout it’s easy to start thinking about all the things you need to start doing better. You start thinking about how you need to work out in the mornings again, get back into meditation, take that class you’ve been talking about and reach out to more friends.
The thing is when you’re overwhelmed you actually have too much going on in your life. Before you start adding, first subtract. You’re Marie Kondo and you need to look at everything and everyone and ask, “Does this bring me joy?”
This doesn’t mean you need to quit your job but take a look at all the projects you’re doing and ask yourself, “Do I really need to be doing all of this and is everything truly a priority?” Think about how to speak to your manager about your workload and focus on what you can give away. If you have a friend or family member that drains your energy, think about ways in which you can set better boundaries with them and limit your interactions.
If none of this is possible, then limit social media. Stopping yourself from mindlessly scrolling and limiting yourself to 20 minutes a day will not only give you more time but improve your overall mood and sense of well-being. There are even limits you can set on some smartphones to hold yourself accountable to those 20 minutes.
Stop trying to “balance” your life and “integrate”
You may have heard this new term “work-life integration” and before you roll your eyes, I know it sounds a lot like “work-life balance.” You’re probably thinking to yourself, “work-life balance didn’t work for me, how will integration change anything?”
While it’s just a word, the meaning behind it is really important. “Work-life balance” has been associated with the image of a scale with work on one side competing for your time and energy with your personal life.
“Work-life integration” is being able to see the different aspects of your life and blending them together in a way that allows you to better manage your time and energy. When you “integrate” something or someone, you’re bringing things together and helping them blend in with everything else.
Stop seeing your days as something you just have to “get through” with little or no thought as to how you feel or what you need until it’s 11pm at night and you’re digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Start seeing your days as an opportunity to blend together all the aspects of your life in a way that supports you and your energy. Working from home has provided the opportunity to blend these aspects now more than any other time in your life.
On Sundays take a look at your week ahead and think about what you need each day or week in order to feel centered and confident. For some it’s daily workouts, for others it’s having time to read, whatever you need, before you schedule anything else, you schedule this first.
The things you do for yourself need to be during a time when you have enough time and energy. If you know you won’t work out in the afternoon then your workout needs to be in the morning.
These past 12 months have been the most challenging, exhausting and life-changing months for all of us. Just remember you’re not alone, everyone is struggling even if it seems like they have it all together.
Tess Brigham (MFT, BCC) dubbed the ‘Millennial Therapist’ by CNBC, is an expert psychotherapist, certified life coach, and public speaker. She specializes in helping millennials discover their unique life path in order to go out into the world and make an impact. Tess’ acclaimed one-on-one coaching empowers young adults to gain the confidence they need to create their dream life through concrete and actionable steps.