By Margaret Craig-Bourdin
Millions of Canadians have been working remotely during the pandemic. And, while not having to commute can be a welcome time-saver, there is the ever-present danger of filling in the time saved with more work. That lack of an off switch, coupled with caregiving and household chores, can set any unsuspecting worker straight on the road to burnout.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can adopt to gain greater ease in your life. Here are some of them.
As Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching, explains, Olympians don’t necessarily make it to the podium based solely on their hard work, because all their competitors are also working hard.
“Sometimes their edge lies in the quality of their resting strategy,” she says. (That strategy can be considered through different lenses: daily, weekly or longer-term; but for any given day, your success depends on how you used your energy, says Chadnick.)
With this technique, work is broken down into intervals, separated by short breaks. While the intervals are traditionally 25 minutes long, they can be adjusted as needed.
“The idea is to work for a certain period, then take a break—pay a bill, take a walk—to give your brain a chance to settle down and restart,” says Chadnick.
Self-evident as it may seem, many people forget that a balanced diet can help you stay healthy and prevent burnout. After all, your diet is your fuel. And the better the fuel, the better you’ll feel. And exercise is also a must.
For example, CPA Elizabeth Chaina, a senior accounting manager with Integrated Merchandising Systems (Omnicom Group) and the mother of two small children, finds that waking up early and going for a walk before the work day begins helps her start on the right foot. “We also take the kids out for some air in the evening,” she says.
Recommended as a way for physicians and radiologists to prevent burnout during COVID-19, “micropractices” involve using recurring activities (such as washing hands or brushing teeth) as an opportunity to practise mindfulness by focusing on your breath and centring your mind and body and to self-connect, asking yourself if you are well-hydrated or hungry, for example.
Name your emotions. For example, if you are upset, ask yourself whether it’s anger, concern or exhaustion. As one article points out, “Such naming aids self-awareness and self-management.”
Studies have shown that if you simply write down three things you are grateful for several times a week, this can have a positive effect on self-reported happiness, burnout, work-life balance and depression.
This technique, which has shown promise for reducing stress and self-perceived anxiety, involves inhaling deeply by expanding the lungs downward rather than inhaling using the abdomen or rib cage alone.
As Chadnick points out, the pandemic has brought escalated demands and external pressure from work, among other personal responsibilities.
“But when we add more pressure by thinking we ‘should’ be doing more, better, faster, we heighten our risk of wearing ourselves down,” she says. “Instead, recognize when you are doing your best. Be more compassionate with yourself. And write out a daily ‘ta da’ list to counter that ever-growing to do list. Even tiny ‘ta das’ are worthy of making it on the list.”
As humans, we naturally crave certainty, so dealing with the ambiguity and uncertainty associated with COVID-19 can be difficult. But as Chadnick explains, it’s important not to resist what is.
“Instead, try to surrender your grip on needing to know (even just a little) and focus on trusting that you will be OK,” she says. “The details of change for all of us are yet to emerge but remember that you are more resilient and even adaptable than you may realize.”
As Diana Brecher, a clinical psychologist for the ThriveRU program at Ryerson University, explains, the present is often not as bad as our vision of a future where this situation would continue indefinitely. “If you can focus on today rather than just saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this for a year,’ that can really help,” she says.
Chaina agrees. “On my email signature at work, I have the saying, ‘This too shall pass.’ Everything passes. I do think businesses will come out of this stronger and more effective—and so can we.”
According to Dr. Shane Lopez, a hope researcher and senior scientist at Gallup, hope is “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”
As Brecher explains, this contrasts with wishing, where you have a vision of the future you would like to see but you don’t believe you can make it happen.
“In order to make hope work for you,” says Brecher, “you need to take Lopez’s definition and ask yourself, ‘How would I like to improve the present—and what can I do to make it a reality?’ Then make some concrete plans.”
This article was first published by CPA Canada. You can read the original version here.