Burn Out During WFH Is Real. Here Is How You Can Deal With It

20 Jul 2020

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The sudden shift from working in an office to working from home has added to the emotional fallout from the pandemic. The stress of juggling work responsibilities with family life, especially with the loss of childcare has greatly increased the risk of burnout. Recent polls (1) have found that over half of the people polled said that they are experiencing burnout. The good news is that there are several ways to overcome WFH burnout. 

Signs Of WFH Burnout And How To Deal With Them 

Avoiding Work 

You may find yourself in a pattern of procrastination, with difficulty in starting a task, despite your anxiety to meet the deadline. As a result, you may miss the dates for your project deliverables. The easiest way to overcome this issue is to start working on easier tasks. This will give you the confidence to take on more complex tasks without feeling overly stressed. If your burnout is severe, take a couple of days off from work to rest and recharge. 

Feeling Exhausted All The Time 

Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion is one of the most common symptoms of burnout (2). There’s no doubt that work can be tiring but if you find yourself constantly exhausted, don’t ignore it as it is likely that you’re experiencing WFH burnout. It is also likely that you will experience persistent feelings of energy depletion or low energy levels. Burnout exhaustion will severely reduce your job efficiency so it is important to deal with it as quickly as possible. One way to reduce this type of exhaustion is to take short breaks throughout your workday. Schedule tougher tasks for earlier in the day when your energy levels are higher and switch to easier tasks during the afternoons when your energy levels are lower. 

Never Clocking Out 

In the pre-COVID era, we would work hard all day knowing that we could relax once we got home in the evening. However, when you’re working from home, the line between personal and professional spaces gets blurred. You feel a sense of anxiety when you try to detach from your work life which makes you feel like you’re working around the clock. A simple way to reinforce the boundaries between your personal and professional lives is to dress up for work each morning. You should also create specific work timings and don’t check your work emails during your downtime. 

Feeling Apathetic About Accomplishments 

It is good to feel a sense of satisfaction at a job well done as it allows you to appreciate the fruits of your labour which keeps you motivated. This kind of job satisfaction is highest when you undertake a new task but in time, your levels of satisfaction start to dip, especially when you encounter unexpected hurdles. If you do not acknowledge and deal with your stress at this point, it will spiral out of control until you reach the point where you no longer enjoy your work and are apathetic about your accomplishments. It’s particularly difficult to pull yourself out of your apathy but regaining your motivation will go a long way. Track your successes as this will help you stay positive about your accomplishments. 

Increased Frequency Of Headaches And Gastrointestinal Problems

The high stress levels associated with burnout affects your physical health as much as your mental and emotional health. Stress triggers your body’s fight or flight response. This makes your muscles tense to prepare for action so if you are constantly stressed, these muscles remain contracted. 

When the muscles of your neck and scalp remain contracted for prolonged periods, you get tension headaches. Studies (3) also show that occupational stress increases the risk and frequency of gastrointestinal problems.  Take short breaks between tasks to practice mindful breathing exercises as this will help to lower your stress levels and improve your overall mood. 

Self-monitoring your stress will allow you to detect problems as soon as they arise which will help to prevent WFH burnout. You should also prioritize your sleep to ensure that your body and mind gets the time it needs to rest and recover from the stresses of the day. Stay physically active as exercise releases endorphins – the “happy hormones” that reduce stress and improve mood. Most importantly, regularly schedule screen-free downtime so that you can connect with yourself and your loved ones. This will help to draw your attention away from your stress and worries so that you can focus on the good instead. 

References:

  1. CBS News. Half of Americans Burned out on Working from Home. 25 June 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/work-from-home-burnout-coronavirus-pandemic/
  2. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: What is burnout? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/
  3. Huerta-Franco, María-Raquel et al. “Effects of occupational stress on the gastrointestinal tract.” World journal of gastrointestinal pathophysiology vol. 4,4 (2013): 108-18. doi:10.4291/wjgp.v4.i4.108

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