The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted our way of life and how we go about our career, managing a business if you are an entrepreneur, or maybe you juggle both. For those that have had to transition to work from home, it was a fire drill to figure out how to deal with kids staying home, the dynamic between your significant other and where you can actually get work done. And if you live alone, how to not feel like a lonely prisoner in your own home. Once you settled in, Zoom, Teams, Bluejeans, Skype or any other technology you are now using became a normal part of the day. Your daily outfit morphed into a nice top or shirt with shorts, yoga pants or pajamas and you might have gone a few days wearing the same shorts, yoga pants or pajamas until you realized it. Weekdays and weekends have blended into a long week where you spend most of the day on video or phone calls and very little time to do actual work while juggling kids, family and home life. Meanwhile, reading or listening to the avalanche of information related to the pandemic and its impact to lives and the economy. It is overwhelming and can easily turn into burnout.
While we are all individuals and there isn’t a magic pill that will solve all problems, I do think there are things you can do to prevent burnout or at least decrease your stress level.
Know Your Breaking Point
Paying attention to your body and mind can give you clues as to when you reach your breaking point. Does every little thing get under your skin? More frequent headaches? Being more self-aware can help you take action and change your state of mind by doing a simple thing such as going for a walk without any devices.
Say “Yes” Strategically
Agreeing to any and everything that comes your way is an easy way to feel overwhelmed. In the beginning, you may need to take projects or assignments to establish credibility, capability and trust but constantly being the ‘Yes Man’ or ‘Yes Woman’ is a sure-fire way to achieve burnout, and achieve it fast. Be strategic by saying yes to projects that have strategic value to the business or when you want to align with a top leader. If you don’t feel like you can say no to your boss, there are other ways to do this. Ask him or her to help you prioritize because you don’t think you have the bandwidth to tackle everything on your plate with excellence. If you are an entrepreneur, what is most important at this moment for you? Only focus on these items. If your plan was to scale to a new region or to add a new product in 4 years, maybe put this plan on hold for a few months. With an overwhelmed founder and a team that is burned out, you probably won’t execute with excellence on your long-term growth plans.
Some kind of physical activity is a great way to push the mental reset button and reduce stress. So many of us used to rely on a daily routine of going to the office as the catalyst to go to the gym or for a jog. You need to establish a new route of going for a jog, working out at home or any other type of physical activity you prefer. You do not want poor habits due to COVID-19 to turn into other health problems in the future. Sitting at a computer desk all day is harmful for your body and for your psyche. Physical activity releases endorphins, increases strength and provides mental clarity. Take advantage of it.
Today’s modern life has brought the phone into every aspect of our day. We have it with us when we wake, when we eat, when we drive, when we go to the restroom and even when we go to sleep at night. It can disrupt family time, dinner time and personal time. Turn it off… occasionally. You do not need to answer that email right now or attend to that client this very second. Take some time to yourself and to your family – turn it off. Disconnect for a little while, then come back to the fray refreshed.
Pre COVID-19, the heading for this section would have been “go on a vacation”. That is not an easy thing to do during a pandemic and even if the economy is opening up, you might not feel safe to travel. Whatever you are comfortable with, plan it and do it, even if it's just for the day. My family and I recently spent a night at a 5-star hotel near the ocean where we felt like the luxury resort will go above and beyond the CDC guidelines as they would not want to tarnish their brand. I have also taken my son to the beach for a few hours on a couple of occasions. The change in environment and not able to focus on everything that was on my plate was refreshing and an instant reducer of stress.
Find your own way
Find something that relaxes you, be it music or art, crafting or reading… whatever hobby or pastime fills you with peace, find it and cultivate it. This is your escape route when you need to let go for a few minutes or a few hours.
Give to Others
When you give back, it makes you feel good. This feeling easily overpowers the feeling of being stressed. Given the times, there are many things you can do to give back, from large to very small. For example, help a family in need with a meal and your problems will feel insignificant and you’ll realize what you are stressing about is not worth it.
Stress finds its way to everyone’s life. Even the most successful can burn out, if they are not careful. Take proactive and cautionary steps now to prevent, or at least deal, with the stress that will come your way.
Comment below on things you do personally to reduce stress.
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