Monday, October 25th, 2021

Avoiding Burnout While Working From Home



by Rahimah Sultan





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What is burnout?

Burnout is the accumulation of work-related stress coupled with continued pressure to perform at an increased level over time without sufficient breaks and downtime.


What are the signs of stress?

1. Fight response

People who have a fight response to stress may have increased irritability and anger. They may have an urge to lash out, raise their voice, be accusatory toward others or the situation. This response can also show in their physical demeanor such as tightening of parts of the body and muscles, and high blood pressure.



2. Freeze response

The freeze response is manifested in an inability to concentrate, the mind freezing or locking up, brain fog, and forgetfulness. Those suffering this response may be avoiding certain situations and distancing themselves from others, and are becoming demotivated at work and in other parts of life.



3. Flight response

The flight response can cause people to become restless, fidgety, and unable to sleep. People suffering this response to stress may be having anxiety-like symptoms, such as a tight chest, affected breathing, stomach pains and excess sweating.




How do you manage stress?

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to manage them as quickly as possible in order to avoid burnout and to keep your brain and body functioning in a healthy way.

Following are some things you can do to avoid burnout.


Sleep

Establish a consistent bedtime routine, so your body and brain know when to start winding down. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Do not exercise, use caffeine, nicotine or alcohol for a half hour before going to bed, and limit blue light exposure from mobile devices. This will improve sleep and good quality rest.


Exercise and movement

Aerobic exercise will pump endorphins through the body, reducing stress. And, physical activity leads to positive physical effects, such as improving cardiovascular, digestive and immune health and can protect the body.

Do not over-exercise. Exercising too much and too hard without adequate recovery can add to the burden on the nervous system. Those who like to do intense exercise might want to do less to give their nervous system more recovery time. Choosing other types of exercise like walking, yoga, and pilates instead of some of the more strenuous workouts during the week, can be beneficial.

Along with exercise, daily pick-me-ups such as spending 10 minutes in a park or the garden can be beneficial in minimizing stress. Fresh air and greenery are instant mood boosters that do not require putting time aside like a long, strenuous workout. These also provide the necessary regular breaks from work and help avoid burnout.


Journaling

Reflecting through writing is an effective way to manage stress, since it encourages you to explore the cause of your stress. It’s a good way to gain a deeper understanding of stress by putting it into words and then working to improve the root causes of negative stressors.

Reflecting will also provide the tools to mindfully treat stress triggers, rather than simply managing the symptoms of the stress. This will reduce overall stress as problems are solved and removed, leading to greater long-term confidence and avoiding burnout.


Take a break from technology

While on a morning walk before starting work or while attempting to wind down after dinner, we can be tempted to check messages and emails. Thus, the home office space becomes blended into the living space. This constant exposure to work-related technology can have psychological consequences and lead to an inability to switch off.

Social media can lead to distraction and prevent you from getting tasks done, and this can lead to work backlog, and ultimately contribute to burnout. Set clear parameters for work time.

Be conscious of how much time you spend on social media and look for ways to reduce this.


Maintaining Social Connections

Control what you can. Feeling like you have no control over your situation is another common burnout contributor.

It’s very powerful to accept that you cannot control certain things, and work on what you can.

Try some relaxation techniques, from breathing to mindfulness, which engage the parasympathetic nervous system.

And you can always share your concerns and fears with your trusted social connections.


Prioritize and plan

Regularly step back and look at what needs to be done in order of priority, and direct your energy accordingly. Do not let the small, less-important tasks overly absorb your limited energy.

Look at the big picture and make a plan. Then break the plan down into smaller tasks that you can direct your energy toward on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, until you feel like you’ve got things under control.

At the beginning of the day write a to-do list. At the end of the workday look at what you achieved to remind yourself of how much you do and recognize what you can let go of.

Remain focused and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to things that distract from your plan.

When you have the tools to recognize and manage stress and burnout, you can take control and manage many of the variables that can contribute to this. Stress and burnout are something that we all experience at various stages in our lives, but we have inner resources such as adaptation skills and resilience.

So, the first step in avoiding burnout while working from home is recognition and then taking the necessary steps to alleviate it.



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