It can be hard to get anything done—let alone work or job-hunting—when you’re at home due to a pandemic, wildfires or hurricanes are raging outside, and your kids need help with remote schooling. Uncertainty about the future can even make you take on more responsibilities as a precautionary measure, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily there are ways to stay focused on the things you can and need to get done, ask for help, and monitor your mental health needs.
Focusing on what is actually achievable
It’s not unusual to be experiencing symptoms of burnout in the current situation. With neverending “to do” lists running through your mind, you may feel like you’re not making a dent in your professional or domestic responsibilities. It can be really helpful to add parameters to your list of what needs to be done and when—and be sure to allow yourself breaks.
- To help manage your workload, you can make lists of what can realistically be accomplished each day. Need an app to help keep you on track? Try Any.do, which sends you push notifications to remind you of what you have to do each day (and allows the all-important satisfaction of swiping a completed task).
- Jobhunting during the pandemic can sometimes feel disheartening, and you may even feel like you’re not doing enough if you don’t get responses. Set a realistic target for each day or week in terms of the number of jobs you hope to apply for and the number of people in your network to contact.
- Schedule breaks throughout your day so that you can try to relax a little and refocus. This can be hard to do at home—especially when you get up from your workspace and see a pile of laundry or other chores that need to be done—but you’re not going to be doing your best work if you’re tired and jumping from one task to the next.
- Accept the fact that some things may have to take the back burner for a while, like responding to nonessential messages or cleaning the apartment as regularly as you would like. We’re all in the same boat, and no one is going to judge you.
Conveying worries about burnout to your supervisor
For many people, anxiety about losing their jobs has led to them work longer hours and take less time off than they normally would. But rather than working yourself to exhaustion, you might want to try conveying your fears and burnout concerns to your supervisor.
- Set up a one-on-one meeting with your boss so that you can review your current projects in detail with them. See if any changes can be made that would make your work more manageable. Your boss may not even be aware of conflicting priorities, so it’s a good idea to make this a regular check-in if it’s not already.
- Let your boss know if there are any resources that you think would help you—for example, would sharing responsibilities on a project with a colleague be a more realistic solution? You can also be specific about what’s not working, like back-to-back Zoom meetings. And be sure to ask for your supervisor’s suggestions, so it’s clear that you want to find a solution together.
- Don’t be afraid to speak openly about outside stresses and responsibilities. Your supervisor should be made aware if you’re tied up helping your child with remote schooling, have been stuck indoors because of wildfire smoke, or are just generally feeling anxiety about current events. These are unprecedented times and your supervisor has no way of knowing what your day-to-day is like unless you’re honest about it. Hopefully you’ll find that they are empathetic and even supportive.
Rather than working yourself to exhaustion, you might want to try conveying your fears and burnout concerns to your supervisor.
Figuring out what is helpful to your mental health
Find out what works for you in reducing levels of stress and anxiety. You may start with exercise, new hobbies, and socially distanced visits with friends. Or you can also try:
- Doing something you love is a great way to fight off burnout and relieve stress. Are you obsessed with binge-watching Netflix shows, or is getting in a workout what helps you relax the most? Or maybe a socially distanced outdoor visit with a friend is what you’re in need of? Whatever it is that helps, be sure to incorporate it into your weekly routine.
- Virtual happy hours, or a glass of wine after a seemingly never-ending work day, can be a great way to unwind for many people. At the same time, pandemic-related drinking problems are on the rise, so be aware of your intake if it’s a regular thing.
- If you’re concerned about feelings of depression or anxiety, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor. Many doctors are offering telehealth visits now so you may not even have to visit their office. If you think you could benefit from counseling, your doctor or even a friend may be able to refer you to someone. And of course, ask your employer if you need to take a mental health day.
Don’t let work-from-home burnout get the best of you. Take steps to set realistic goals, be honest with your employer, and keep a watch on your mental health.
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Lakshmi Hutchinson is a freelance writer with experience in the nonprofit, education, and HR fields. She is particularly interested in issues of educational and workplace equity, and in empowering women to reach their professional goals. She lives in Glendale, California with her husband, twin girls, and tuxedo cat.