by Eileen McDargh, author of “Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters“
In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout in its 11th International Classification of Diseases, classifying it as a global occupational hazard. Simply stated, the WHO said burnout is a syndrome that stems from chronic workplace stress, characterized by depleted energy and exhaustion, negativity and cynicism about one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
We can all nod our heads to that. However, the WHO is only partially correct. Burnout, as named by Dr. Herbert Freudenberger in the mid-1970s, is a depletion of physical, emotional, and mental resources from attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations imposed by ourselves or outside influences.
In short: burnout isn’t just about work. For many of us, our jobs might be the place of sanity, and it’s home life that drains us.
Enter COVID-19 and the requirement to work remotely. We’re now not only juggling work requirements but also sharing potentially limited space with family members, trying to homeschool children, seeing the same faces 24/7, walking the dog, masking up to buy essential groceries, and zooming into countless meetings.
Ironically, prior to COVID-19, many employees sought the opportunity to work from home for a limited number of days as a “perk.” That perk has popped. It’s now fueling our burnout.
So, how can we cope? Try these four burnout busters for working from home:
1. Sit down and spill it.
Have an all-hands, spill-the-beans conversation with whomever shares your space. This is the time for reflective listening. How do the people around you feel about this new arrangement? What makes them anxious? What would help the most?
Speak the truth out loud for yourself. Think creatively about how everyone can both give and take within the space. What about noise levels? Disruptions? You’d be surprised at how creative young people can be with homing in on solutions, like a red-green flashcard that signals stop and go on intrusions.
2. Expand the potential for better sleep and exercise.
Create a firm, stop-all-work time. That includes stopping all emailing, texting, and computer time. Strive for at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Create a morning exercise routine, and make it a priority. If possible, exercise outside to leave your home’s four walls behind.
Your logical mind might tell you this is impossible. However, your intuitive self knows this is exactly what you need.
3. Design a once-a-week “play date”.
Schedule time with your spouse, your friends, or your children (or everyone). For example: Have a picnic on the lawn and play games. Have a Zoom dinner or a wine tasting. Cook a meal together using recipes from another country. You’re only limited by your imagination. The goal is to radically shift mental gears and reach out to others.
4. End each day with a round robin of gratitude.
Each day, recount what you’re grateful for, speak it out loud, and then write it in a journal. When you realize how much you have to be thankful for, you also recognize there’s so little you actually need.
An added bonus? You might discover ways to curtail unnecessary spending and control your finances in the process.
Certainly, every at-home situation is different. The idea is to reframe this new situation and ask yourself what’s possible versus impossible. The more you invite and engage with others in your home space, the wider the field of possibility becomes.
Eileen McDargh is CEO (chief energy officer) at the Resiliency Group, where she draws on practical business know-how, life experience, and years of international consulting to help others survive and thrive in an upside-down world. Her new book is “Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters“. Learn more at EileenMcDargh.com.