The COVID-19 pandemic can really and understandably bring up a lot of stress. Fears about losing control can come up, and we might, in an effort to feel more grounded, look for ways to regain that control and agency. Sometimes though, we can lean into patterns that can be less healthy for us. One (unhealthier) way we might try to regain control is by throwing ourselves into work, when we either do not need to or when it might be actually better for us to rest. Especially if we’re transitioning to work from home, this unhealthy pattern can make us more stressed since we no longer have the usual boundaries to separate work from home.
Cost of Overworking = Burnout
This less-healthy overfocus on work can over time actually put us closer to burnout because:
- Our identity can feel overtaken by work,
- We may be unintentionally deleting rejuvenating/replenishing activities from our schedule,
- We might not be offering ourselves time to experiment with new behaviors or activities that could be beneficial in the long run, and
- Our mood might feel almost completely dependent on how our workday went and how our colleagues or bosses are doing (because work has become 95% of our life).
5 Burnout Prevention Tips
There are ways to set ourselves up for success while we work from home. The intent and purpose can be to engage meaningfully in work and still make sure we’re creating nourishing routines for ourselves.
- Create a workspace: Particularly in NYC, space is so precious, in terms of physical space and emotional. As a result, find creative ways to demarcate “not at work” from “at work.” Some examples include:
- Create a separate work corner
- Work clothes (or a work hoodie)
- Eating meals at a different place from where you work
- Create routine to your schedule if possible, by picking a start and stop time.
- Create a wake-up routine that feels grounding and meaningful – it could be 5 minutes or 30 minutes, the key is to listen to what we each individually need in terms of time and activity.
- Take short breaks during the work day:
- By intentionally taking breaks. We can forget how much our colleagues’ chatter, the snackroom, or the light from our office can help break up the day. Without that stimuli, we might have to be more creative and intentional in how we pause and take breaks.
- Track and use your time intentionally. The Pomodoro method is a wonderful way to track how we use our time and our breaks. Traditionally, it involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a short break. For some, working for an hour might be better. Figure out what would work for you.
- Find a way to mark the end of your work day. This could be a short walk while you practice social distancing, calling a friend, yoga, or stretching exercises.
- Create a short list of non-work things you could do when you have down time. This way, if you realize you have time and might be defaulting to work when you don’t need to (or it feels unhealthy to default to work), you could look up the list to see if there’s anything else you can do.
If you would like to learn more about burnout prevention, here’s a helpful overview with more strategies that you can gradually implement in your work from home routine.