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BURNT OUT AT WORK? PART 4 OF 4.

April 7, 2020 | Uncategorized

Late last year, I began a series of posts about workplace burnout. At the time, my goal was to help those in my network enjoy a little more sanity in their work lives. Well, things have changed quite a bit in the past month, and we’re facing very different challenges. 

RECAP

We begin to experience workplace burnout when we lose sight of any of these four pillars of workplace wellbeing:

  • Setting Boundaries
  • Gaining Perspective
  • Connecting with my Mission
  • Practicing Self Care.

While this is always a challenge, these topics are perhaps more relevant than they’ve ever been in the midst of a global health and economic crisis–especially the topic I’ll focus on in this post: self-care.

WHAT IS SELF-CARE?

Let’s start with a definition. Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. In other words, self-care means making yourself a priority–not at the expense of others, but not sacrificing your needs in service of their needs.

While self-care involves a variety of things, three of the most critical areas are diet, exercise, and sleep. In typical times, the challenge is eating right, making fitness a priority, and getting enough quality sleep while dealing with the competing priorities of commuting to the office, work, and your time with friends and family. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, those challenges still exist, but things have shifted a little. We have the temptation of eating too much out of boredom or stress. We have to find new ways to exercise when the gyms are closed. And it can be hard to get good quality sleep when we’re worrying about our health, the health of our family members, and the economy, among other concerns. The bottom line is that our lives are at least as stressful, and perhaps even more so, so it’s equally important to invest in self-care. 

While diet, exercise, and sleep are the core, there are other important facets of self-care. And now, when many of us have a little more time, it may be possible to fit them into your day. A few examples:

  • Meditation or prayer. This can seem like a negotiable priority, but it’s better to think of it as an investment. A few minutes each day can improve your focus and your outlook. I make it a priority to meditate for 10 to 15 minutes every day using the Headspace app. There are other options–and you can meditate without an app, of course–but Headspace works well for me. You can also simply practice deep breathing for a few minutes a day–especially when you’re feeling stressed. A few deep breaths can help you put things into perspective.
  • I also keep a journal and strive to write once a day. For me, the key is to avoid limiting myself to a specific topic. Instead, I use a form of free writing where I jot down whatever’s on my mind. I find that getting these thoughts on paper helps me better understand what’s capturing my attention and what I might need to consider more closely. And occasionally, a great idea reveals itself on the page.
  • Another aspect of self-care that often gets neglected is a creative hobby. Many of us think it’s frivolous to spend time on activities that aren’t focused on our careers, our families, or our physical health. However, the opposite is true; the responsible thing is to embrace aspects of your life that make you happy and that challenge you in a different way. Right now, I’m attempting to learn to play the piano and getting back to drawing–something I’ve always enjoyed–and creating comics with my kids. The latter is a good reminder that our hobbies don’t always have to be pursued alone.
  • On a related note, self-care also involves connecting to others. Right now, this is a huge challenge, given the imperative to practice social distancing. But it’s often neglected even when we can be face to face. Most of us spend too much time on our phones and not enough time in real, meaningful conversation.  

SELF-CARE TAKES WORK

While it’s true that we neglect self-care in deference to our other responsibilities, there’s another barrier that we don’t always acknowledge: self-care takes work.

Consider something that may seem easy: your connection to your partner. You undoubtedly get a lot of joy from your spouse or significant other–otherwise, why would you be together? But that doesn’t mean managing the relationship is easy. It takes time and effort to focus on your partner while balancing your other needs and priorities.

We also have to guard against our self-care becoming a source of stress instead of relief from it. For example, running is now an escape for me. However, there was a time when I started competing in road races and it became a stress inducer, not a stress reliever. Sometimes, our desire to succeed can cause our self-care regimen to negate the positive effects. It’s important to remember that self-care is something we rarely master, and always need to manage.  

SOUND OFF

How do you practice self-care? How has that changed–if at all–during the coronavirus pandemic?


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