Our global pandemic has put us in a situation that no one has ever been in before. We are all used to working too many hours and having too many responsibilities at home that can lead to significant stress followed by burnout. Now the stress is tenfold, especially considering so many things are out of our control. Burnout is complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion brought on by prolonged stress.
Many states and areas are still in quarantine. Many of us are into our 8th or 9th week of working from home while also dealing with homeschooling. This is a recipe for stress and burnout as we try to deal with ten Zoom meetings a day and remote learning. After many weeks of quarantine, many of our early ambitious plans of learning to bake and read the classics have morphed into just dealing with the difficulties of working at home and reluctant home learners.
Realizing you are getting dangerously stressed out is half the battle. Are you cranky and snapping back at everyone? Do you find yourself shutting down entirely? Do you lack energy and feel unable to cope? You are burning out. You might want to detach from others, but you need to do just the opposite. Just because we need to socially distance does not mean no contact at all. Have a Zoom cocktail party, talk to neighbors over the fence. Stop by relative’s houses and chat from the sidewalk. But keep up the human connection. You can also check out online communities that might be sharing your struggles.
Set aside time in your calendar for yourself. Your work meetings and remote learning are scheduled, so should some leisure time for yourself. Do whatever calms and de-stresses you. Take a bath, read, or have a power nap. Your mental health is important too. We all want to be Superman, but that is not realistic. Be selective and prioritize! It is ok to say no sometimes. Try it, it is exhilarating! Sometimes, something as small as a change in the environment can help boost your mood. Move to a sunnier room or take a walk around the block. Moving your body is most important now to improve your physical and mental health. Even 15 minutes a couple times a day can improve your mindset.
We all have fears and anxieties that swirl through our heads in these scary times. It is good to do a brain dump and get them down on paper. Naming your fears and thinking of strategies to solve them can give you some control in a world where we have extraordinarily little right now.
Try out some of the above methods when you are feeling burned out to help alleviate the everyday stressors due to the pandemic. By doing so, we can all get through this with our health and sanity intact.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO