It’s the most wonderful time of the year … or is it? With people planning for various holiday celebrations, December is the time of year we let our guard down at work. Normally, there are potluck lunches, gift exchanges, and sometimes, year-end bonuses. But this year is different. It’s pandemic holiday season, where parties are virtual, staying at home by the fire is becoming old hat, and many companies have experienced layoffs or freezes on pay and bonuses.
All this stress, when added to the normal end-of-year stresses, can be enough pressure to make you feel completely overwhelmed. According to the latest MetLife Report on Mental Health, 66% of employees report symptoms of the World Health Organization’s definition of burnout. The most interesting thing about people who are experiencing burnout is that you often don’t notice until it’s too late. People are good at covering up the stress they feel for fear of being perceived as weak. In fact, they will go to great lengths to put on a happy face as they suffer in silence. The good news this year is that we’re all going through this together, so finding ways to lessen our burnout and stress is something we can all benefit from.
This is one of the reasons that by the time you either notice, or are told, that someone is burned out, it has often reached critical levels. And if you’re the one just noticing you feel this way, it’s often hard to shake yourself out of the situation. If you’re feeling this way at work, the best thing to do is speak up and take positive action.
Use self-care to reduce the stress
1. Focus on your health
There are several steps you can take to improve your health. First, schedule that annual checkup with your doctor. Today, many providers are offering telehealth visits you can do from home. This will give you peace of mind as you head into the new year or arm you with the information you need to deal with a current health issue. Second, evaluate your diet. Ensure you’re eating healthy a majority of the time, with opportunities to have some holiday treats added in. Third, you may not be exercising enough. If you’re not, add in 20-30 minutes a day of any activity that gets your heart rate up a bit. In the end, it will energize your metabolism and your mind.
2. Prioritize and purge
Is your inbox always full? If so, now is the month to prioritize and only work on what is critical this month. First, eliminate all the requests you have that are not aligned with your work goals. Purge them immediately. For the remaining emails, send a reply saying you’ll add it to your 2021 calendar. By setting a boundary now, you’ll be able to avoid overload at work.
3. Take a retreat
A retreat will rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. When you take a retreat, you gift yourself time to think. You can meditate, write or any other activity to clear your head. But during a pandemic, it’s impossible to do this. The solution is to be creative and find ways to get away in nature for short bits of time to rejuvenate. Give yourself a hiking goal each week and find a local park to achieve it. Tell your family you need an hour a day of alone time and go into a room, put on noise-canceling headphones, and escape online on a virtual museum tour, nature adventure, or find a virtual retreat on YouTube. There are so many options to “get away” virtually.
4. Limit negative intake
A recent American Psychological Association study found that 95% of Americans follow the news regularly, yet 56% of them say that doing so causes increased stress. Politics is not the only topic that can cause stress levels to skyrocket, and the current political climate has been more stressful than usual. When you layer in COVID-19 infection rates, crime, business news and even entertainment news, you can quickly be overwhelmed with negative information. Be sure to step away and seek positive stories to balance out the information you choose to consume.
5. Create boundaries
Whether it’s over the internet or in person, YOU have the choice to limit and create boundaries. If the negative intake comes from only a few sources, cut those off. If it’s social media, temporarily uninstall the apps on your phone and take a social media break. This may sound like basic advice, but you’d be surprised how many people complain about it and never delete the apps. If there are only specific people contributing to the negative flow of information, limit their ability to do this by disconnecting or unfriending them. Boundaries are there to help make you more comfortable and to protect yourself.
6. Open up to your boss
Eight in 10 workers say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking mental health care, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. But now, more than ever, bosses understand the stress we are all experiencing. Be honest and upfront about your feelings. Come prepared to tell your manager how you’re feeling, what is causing that feeling, and the impact on your health. Then, propose ways to alleviate the stressors. If you come with suggestions, it makes it easier for the manager to agree to the proposed changes instead of having to come up with a solution for you.
Bonus Tech Tip
Many of the suggestions for self-care can be supplemented with technology. Whether through the Limeade One platform, or through various individual apps that support time management, meditation, health tracking and financial well-being, technology can enable transformation.
Finishing a difficult year strong is the best response when it comes to stress. Taking time to look within, define your needs, then meet them will empower you as you look ahead. Now is the time to embrace self-care and rejuvenate.