COVID-19 burnout is real. The pandemic has had a monumental impact on our work-life balance. Work-life balance is critical for good health and longevity. Is the lack of boundaries between your work and life getting worse? Here are 3 questions to ask yourself…
“Your job isn’t to get people to like you but for you to like yourself” – RuPaul
In an article on CNBC.com, a survey showed that 69%, of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home. Despite work burnout, the majority (59%) are taking less time off than they normally would, and 42% of those still working from home are not planning to take any time off to decompress.
You know the stats, but you cannot seem to do anything
I’m pretty sure you can relate to this, whether you are feeling it or people close to you. Even though you know the stats, your behavior is not shifting in favor of a more harmonious approach to work and life.
It’s kind of like a smoker knowing all the reasons why they should stop smoking, but they have become desensitized to the messaging. The narrative becomes ‘I know it’s not good for you, blah blah…but I’ve tried to stop and I just can’t’. This is the same thing in my opinion – ‘I know I shouldn’t check emails at 9 p.m but I just can’t stop’. Ok, so how do you move forward and start to shift? It all begins with a better set of questions.
What expectations are you attaching to this behavior?
“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly”
Are you attaching your self-worth, your security or your future happiness to it? You really need to dig deep and unpack what this means for you.
When I was preparing for my TEDx talk, I placed so much unnecessary pressure on myself that the whole process started to contract me instead of expand me. In hindsight, I had placed the fate of my entire career on this talk. You hear about people like Simon Sinek and Brené Brown whose talks went viral and transformed their careers.
What happens if I ruin the opportunity?
Instead of framing the experience to ‘what happens if this goes well?’, I had framed it as ‘what if I ruin this opportunity?’ Now talks like Simon’s or Brene’s deserved to go viral because their intentions were pure. When you listen to interviews with them, they never ever expected it to be so successful. Brené figured that no one would probably listen to it, so she may as well give it everything. Her intention was to serve and be authentic, and she approached it from a place of love and not fear.
If you find it hard to stop checking emails after hours and on weekends, ask yourself how you are framing that action? Are you putting your future career into a bunch of ‘what if’ scenarios? What if I miss something urgent, what if a client needs me and I drop the ball? (never mind its 10 p.m on a Friday night).
There’s burnout in missing out on meetings
I have clients whose team members are booked off ill due to stress and burnout, yet they are still logging into meetings ‘just in case’ they miss something. Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work did a TED talk where he spoke about FOMOOM (Fear of Missing Out On Meetings). It is the fear attached to their absence, the ‘what if’ scenarios that play like a broken record player internally. Despite being given permission and instructions to rest, they are going against their better judgement.
Once you can create some space between you and the action, you can start to unravel some really destructive habits.
How do your actions impact others?
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson
It’s normal for motivation and morale to feel depleted over this time. Even though you can see your team online, it has become a lot more structured and there is no opportunity for spontaneous conversations like the coffee station catch ups.
No boundaries, means trouble
The days have merged into weekends and boundaries of work and life are few and far between. When you can feel yourself sitting down to work with a feeling of ‘it’s just another day, another email, another sales call’, then take a moment and remember why you are doing it. Take a step back and remind yourself about the role you play in the bigger picture.
Think about a Rube Goldberg machine. This is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way. (Google it so you get the right image in your mind). It reminds us that every cog and tiny screw has a valuable role to play no matter how seemingly insignificant. If that tiny screw didn’t perform its function, the whole operation would come to a grinding halt.
What tools are needed?
What about approaching your work in the same way? You matter. The work you do matters because what you do directly affects other people whether your work is a mother, an executive, a PA or a painter.
In my work, I never have the attitude that it’s ‘just another talk or just another workshop’. I spend time really thinking about what the audience needs to hear and how they need to feel after they listen to me. The most challenging talk I have done this year was for a group of elderly and retired people. I really had to reflect on what they needed to know in order to work through the pandemic. What tools do they need that will really benefit them during this time like managing new technology, dealing with uncertainty and isolation. It was very different from my typical corporate audience and I had to move into a truly empathetic space to deliver what they needed to hear. I knew I could make a real impact on these people and it enabled me to approach the work with humility and gratitude.
Don’t sabotage yourself and compromise your health
My message is that your contribution matters and you are part of a larger goal. Don’t push through boundaries and sabotage yourself by neglecting to manage your energy properly. Burnout is not an accomplishment. Like the smoking example, you may have become desensitized to the side effects but think about the impact you will have on others if you take it too far and do land up compromising your health?
If you aren’t prepared to create boundaries and protect your energy for yourself then please do it for the people you impact and think how your inability to show up will compromise the bigger vision and goal.
What’s the real payoff?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space it is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor E. Frankl
I watched a MasterClass series on RuPaul and he spoke about how he always used to arrive obnoxiously late for everything. When he reflected on why he was consistently late, he realized that he was addicted to the adrenaline rush it gave him. He had plenty of time leading up to the meeting or event so it wasn’t a time issue. When he made the decision to let go of the payoff of the adrenaline rush, he started to arrive early.
What payoff are you getting from procrastination and checking late night emails?
You may say that you do your best work under pressure but research shows we never do our best when we are chronically stressed. Perhaps it is the adrenaline rush of leaving it to the last minute and having the story to tell of the dreaded all-nighter?
Think about that time when you woke up at 2AM wide awake and you debated checking your phone. While you were lying in bed, you were most likely telling yourself a story about an urgent email waiting for you and if you don’t check your phone, you will miss out on something. So you pick it up and check the inbox and breathe a sigh of relief when there is nothing to be alarmed about. At that moment, you get a flood of dopamine which is a feel-good hormone. You also get dopamine hits by ticking off items on a to-do list or getting likes on a social media post. Have you ever considered you may have become addicted to the payoff of the dopamine hit? It feels good when we know everything is fine…it should be fine, it’s 2 a.m!
When you begin to dissect your extreme working habits, you begin to uncover a deeper motivation that drives the action. Next time you find yourself checking emails at odd hours or just checking in on a weekend, stop yourself and ask yourself what are you really getting out of the action and more importantly, are you prepared to let go of the payoff in order to dump the habit?
The Bottom Line
‘It’s your life’s work to shine’ – RuPaul
Don’t become a statistic of the burnout epidemic. Take a step back and put your actions under a microscope.
What are your true motivations?
What expectations are you attaching to your actions?
What’s the real payoff you are attached to and is it serving you?
Don’t ask yourself what opportunity will you miss out on if you don’t keep checking in after hours but rather what can you gain by making space for yourself?
Don’t create ‘what if’ scenarios for the future and bring them back to the present and start living them.
Why wait for something like a major health scare to force you into some semblance of harmony? You are the architect of your life.
In this pandemic, the way to shine isn’t by logging in an extra hour or checking email one more time before bed. Shine begins with daily acts of kindness and creating some space to show up for yourself.
Here’s to new choices.
Here are six thoughts to deal with your COVID-19 anxiety. Click here.