The discomfort many people report feeling after long periods of staying home during the pandemic has received an official name from UCLA Health. They call it pandemic fatigue. Sometimes, people may describe their symptoms as an unexplained feeling of persistent sadness, anxiety, or even work from home burnout. Either way, it comes from months of unrelenting uncertainty, worries, and even loneliness and isolation.
Keeping busy doesn’t always stave it off. People who have to work and study from home may even feel worse because of the added burden of stress. Some people may draw comfort from knowing they aren’t alone—at least—in feeling this way. At the same time, hard-working students and employees should consider a few simple tips to avoid burnout in order to better take care of themselves.
“How can I avoid burnout when working from home?”
Most people that ask this question often report feeling a lack of emotional energy and drive. They might feel sad, hopeless, worried, frustrated, and even irritable. Some folks eat less or more than they usually do. Others might experience the mental fogginess that has gotten nicknamed “pandemic brain.” Symptoms can also include anxiety and even withdrawal from communicating with other people.
Obviously, these symptoms feel unpleasant and certainly won’t generate a productive environment for schoolwork and jobs. At a time when people need to keep up their stamina, it may be hard to eat right, enjoy sunshine and physical activity, or even maintain relationships. That’s why it’s so important to consider taking at least a few of these burnout-relief suggestions:
1. Schedule Generous Work Breaks
High performers who work and study for advanced degrees may feel guilty when they take breaks. Perhaps not so surprisingly, having both work and school right there at home can even add to the pressure to keep performing. Sadly, working from home doesn’t always offer the work-life promise many people think it does.
In fact, one study published on Business News Daily found that remote workers put in an average of an extra 1.4 days each month over colleagues who worked in the office. Add in studying online for an advanced degree, and that can only add to the feeling of always working.
Some people cope by sticking to a schedule that includes time for both work and relaxation. Others might simply make time for hobbies, like cooking or crafts, when they begin to feel stressed. Besides work breaks, it’s important to have regular days off to attend to family, enjoy entertainment, or even simply sleep in.
2. Attend to Physical Health and Hygiene
Everybody has seen those memes with people who have joked about indulging in too much “quarantine food” or remaining in the same PJs for days. Even though working from home should give people more time to attend to cooking healthy meals, enjoying some physical activity, relaxing with music or meditation, or even just soaking up a long shower, so many people report skipping these typical and necessary parts of their normal schedule.
Whether pandemic fatigue makes it easier to neglect one’s health and hygiene or not, people need to schedule these important activities back into their days as a priority. Some helpful suggestions for physical activity might include walking or working out to a yoga video. Keep salads, fruit, lean protein, and other healthy food prepared in the fridge, so they’re as easy to grab as a bag of chips. And working at home makes casual clothes—or even PJs—entirely appropriate, but don’t neglect the shower and laundry.
3. Prioritize Connections and Relationships
If people can’t have in-person meetings or gatherings, they can find plenty of ways to connect with friends, family, fellow students, or coworkers virtually. Conversations and even virtual activities can help maintain relationships and curb loneliness.
Some suggestions include:
- Phone calls and letters
- Social media chat, video meetings, and online conferences
- Live classes, seminars, and religious services online
4. Accept Feeling Bad Sometimes, and Put a Name on It
Few people have ever had to go through such a drastic transition as social distancing measures have imposed upon just about everybody during this time. Writers from the Harvard Business Review spoke about their own feelings during the pandemic. During one of their typical Zoom meetings to discuss content, they started to talk about how they felt. One participant said that what she felt was grief, and suddenly, everybody in the meeting nodded in agreement. All of these feelings are common when someone is experiencing burnout from working at home.
In response to acknowledging their feelings, they spoke with David Kessler, the founder of Grief.com. Kessler said that not only do most people experience grief during this time, they actually suffer from more than one type. Lots of people have lost friends and family members, so they feel loss. Just as valid, people feel uncertain about the future and mourn the parts of their lives they have lost.
Kessler also mentioned anticipatory grief, which stems from uncertainty about the future. Because of the open-ended nature of the situation, many people find this the hardest kind of grief to manage, and it soon turns into persistent anxiety. He said he would tell people to name their feelings as a first step. After that, grievers need to recognize various stages of grief and finally realize that they cannot control anything but should commend themselves for controlling what they can.
5. Remember that Nobody’s a Superhero
Sometimes, social media paints a very deceptive picture of the lives everybody else enjoys. Of course, most people only post the good things on their walls and feeds. They leave out the instances when they were irritable with their partners or handed an assignment in a day late. While everybody should try to work on solutions to stay as productive and healthy as possible, nobody should hold themselves to an impossible bar. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are experiencing burnout or pandemic fatigue.
Advance Your Career from Home
Nobody can deny that these atypical times have generated plenty of work-from-home burnout. At the same time, the situation can also provide a great opportunity for people to advance their education to better prepare for the next stage of their business reopening or even the “new normal” of working from home with an advanced education as is provided in an MBA program. UTC offers flexible online, in-person, and hybrid MBA programs to help you advance your career. Contact us for more details on how an MBA degree program can fit into your routine.