Cal Poly started classes back up this week and it was odd to realize that I wasn’t also starting classes with my friends there. Instead of class and homework prep, this week my routine has been full of early morning coffee and document deadlines. My life has changed direction in a very short amount of time and even while I’m okay with that, it’s taken some getting used to. When it comes to working from home, it can be great to attend meetings in my pjs, grab a snack when I want, or even hang out with my family while we work in the same space.
That greatness, however, comes with downsides.
Whether you’re creating, marketing, or doing some other kind of remote job right now, this “new normal” takes a lot of adjusting to.
For me, adjusting as a new hire means learning to not check my email when I’m off the clock. For others, adjusting could look like doing some of the things you used to love—teaching, nursing, or even volunteering— and having to do it in a way that doesn’t quite feel the way it used to. We’re all on a learning curve right now and some days it’s hard to keep up.
Unfortunately, the usual social interactions that often come with working can’t exist in our current conditions. These interactions are what help to keep us going and they’re important for a lot of reasons, especially right now. When you’re doing work that you care about doing well, it’s easy to work yourself longer or harder for the people you do it for… even when it can be draining.
These days, teachers miss their students. New employees miss chances to meet their new coworkers. Health workers miss interacting with patients or their families without so much tension. And for a lot of us, we miss not staring at our screens so much.
This year has been the perfect storm for multiple kinds of burnout and I’ve been seeing a whole lot of frustrated posts from friends on social media the past few weeks. If you’re struggling with figuring out how to balance out your responsibilities or need a way to step back from them altogether, you’re in the right place.
This one is short and sweet; I’m proposing three ways to give yourself a chance to beat the 2020 burnout. Here we go:
Accept the new norm
The more you push back against something like this, the harder it is to adjust to it—it’s like being told not to laugh or smile even when you weren’t thinking about doing either. At that point, some people really do feel the urge to laugh and the more they push against it, the more they feel like laughing. So… stop pushing. Accepting the new normal is like knowing that sometimes you will want to laugh—sometimes you won’t—and knowing that it is an okay thing to let happen. Once you lean into it and all of the stress that can come with it, we open ourselves up to the option of adjusting around it instead of stressing about what’s going to be there regardless.
Dance it out
I admit, this one is a metaphor, but hear me out. In Grey’s Anatomy, the two original main characters (Meredith and Christina) did this thing whenever they were stressed, in a fight, or had a problem that they couldn’t work through: they put on some music and danced it out. Yes, I do mean literal dancing. They stopped whatever they were doing, put on some music, and started dancing. Did dancing fix those problems? Usually, no, the problem wasn’t fixed. But it still helped them step back for a minute and get out of their heads when they really needed to. Because at a certain point, some of the problems those two faced were simply out of their hands. I think that applies to a lot of us. What we may be dealing with right now are problems that we can’t fix or those that need more time to work through. In the meantime, we might as well dance or relax, or do whatever else has to be done to carry on and take care of ourselves.
Set your boundaries
Do you ever get ready to start something new that you’re not sure will go well, so you tell yourself that to “just give it a try” for a little while? When I do that it’s kind of like telling myself I’ll try running for three weeks and if I don’t like it, I can try something else; the end of week three is my boundary. When it comes to workouts, I can stick to the limits I set pretty well, but with work… not so much. With professional discipline, especially now that many people are working from home, it’s important to set limits and boundaries on when you’re allowed to check emails, answer the phone, work on documents, etc. You used to be able to leave your work at the office when the day was done and head home to a hopefully work free zone. Now, your home is your office which means you need to find a way to mediate the work-life balance on your own terms. Whether that’s setting the clock for a designated cut-off time every evening, making a work-only space like an office, or even writing up an elaborate rule system set with breaks and all, find something that works for you. But set it on your own terms and make the system one that fit in with your most productive self without burning you out. Don’t let the work overrun you instead.
I know this list is small and the burnout can seem daunting, but the whole point is for you to be able to pick just one of the three options above and start there. For some of us, the love for our work is starting to get lost, and that’s not a good feeling. Instead, that love is replaced with frustration, annoyance, or even anger, and that’s okay. I know I’ve had my moments because, well, we’re human right?
One thing I also know is that this doesn’t have to last forever. As I said, this is a new normal and we really don’t know what things are going to look like on the other side.
Wherever you’re at, these are just three ways to take care of yourself and address what it’s like to be working and even schooling remotely because many of us are in these positions. Hopefully, we can all find a way to support ourselves through this, but if you have any tips or tricks that have been working for you, feel free to share them in the comments or start a conversation on my socials!
Otherwise, I hope you can put these into action and get through the burnout a lot of people are feeling lately. Do something that feels good this weekend. I heard the weather is cooling down a bit so maybe take a quick break to dance it out wherever you are. Whatever you do, have a great weekend and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday.