The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust 2021 into a not so flattering light, to say the least. If you’ve been struggling to navigate each twist & turn along the way, you’re not alone – a recent LinkedIn survey revealed a 33% jump in job burnout compared to years prior. Healthcare workers, restaurants and small business owners in particular have been some of the most susceptible to the events of 2020.
But it’s not just our careers that are stressing us out: 2020 in general has touched nearly every aspect of our lives, and the resulting burnout is all too real. If you’re unsure whether you’re burnt out or just having a bad week, here’s a hint: people who are “burnt out” tend to experience the following symptoms:
- Exhaustion, both physically and emotionally
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Feelings of hopelessness and failure
- Lowered self-esteem
- Irritability and loss of connection to those around them/lashing out
- Abnormally poor work performance and/or inability to carry out responsibilities as normal
Sound familiar? Don’t beat yourself up: it’s completely normal, and means you could probably benefit from a well-deserved pause right about now. Here’s a few self care reminders to help improve symptoms of burnout and set yourself up for a (hopefully) better 2021.
1. Break free of the blue light
Like many, a lot of my days end with me mindlessly scrolling through my phone. I’m usually busy catching up with friends or checking in on my favorite celebrities, but even a small peek at the inevitable bad news of the day can quickly turn an innocent passtime into a full-blown doom scroll. On top of that, I’m spending more time than ever watching movies, binging shows or otherwise entertaining myself in front of a screen – but is all this extra tube time actually harming our well-being?
The answer to that is a bit complicated. Some studies suggest that excessive blue light exposure, like what you get from your phone screen, can lead to a mild increase in skin problems. However, more research is needed to be done to prove this definitively. Nonetheless, you can clearly feel the effects when you’ve overdone it: do you find yourself feeling less happy than before you checked your phone? Are your shows simply pacifying your anxieties and not actually making you feel good? Do you disregard other, more creative outlets in favor of more and more mindless scrolling? If these rang true for you, you may benefit even from a tech break, even if it’s brief.
Think of the time of day when you’re most on your phone. Can you spare at least 5 minutes of that time for another, less screen-focused activity? Reading is a great substitute; plus, the task of finishing a book is way more manageable when broken down into bite sized pieces. One writer even used coloring to ease stress & improve her sleep.
If there’s an activity you can replace some of your usual screen time with, do it – you may feel more at ease afterwards (your eyes will feel the love, too.)
2. Do only what’s necessary
It’s easy to find ways to make ourselves feel guilty for “not doing enough”, but trust me: of any year, this is the year to let go of all that.
Assess where you may be applying too much pressure on yourself – whether at work, in your home life or elsewhere. What can you afford to let go of and still take care of what you need to? What’s the biggest source of unnecessary exhaustion? If you find something you can live without, phase it out of your routine at your own pace, then see how you feel. You may find yourself even more productive where it counts now that you ditched the excess baggage.
Science agrees as well – busy doesn’t always equal better, and it can easily become unhealthy if left alone for too long. Taking time to shed to-do’s that aren’t serving you, even if they’re small, can improve your outlook, help you focus on what counts, and protect your health from “the disease of being busy”.
Not all of us are great at slowing down, though – if you feel the need to do something and just can’t sit still, make whatever you do be about pleasing yourself rather than checking something off your list. Try out a face mask, make your favorite snack, or call a friend and catch up – remember that “being busy” doesn’t always mean you need to accomplish a task, but rather doing something enjoyable that’s just for you.
3. Count your blessings
Finding the good in a bad situation is one of the hardest skills to master, especially when it feels like one thing after another. Although difficult in trying times, finding gratitude for what’s going right instead of wrong in your life can help ease some anxiety while providing space between yourself and difficult emotions.
Not only does a positive outlook help improve your inner being, but it also boosts your environment: studies have shown that people who practice gratitude on a regular basis have improved relationships, more energy and an overall better outlook on life. Simply put, people worked better when their focus was geared towards thankfulness rather than day to day irritations and negativity.
This isn’t to say you won’t ever feel bothered again – sorry, there’s really no way around that. However, balancing what can feel like a constant stream of negativity with a few moments of gratitude can have a bigger impact than you think. Try writing a thank you note to someone who’s helped you out lately, or make a point of jotting down a few things you’re thankful for each week. Even if you don’t feel a massive change in perspective right away, you’ll still have that moment of positive thought to enjoy.
4. Lean on community
No one should have to deal with life alone: if you’re struggling to keep up with everything that’s happened this year and nothing you’re doing on your own is working, reach out to someone you trust for help. It can feel uncomfortable to admit you’re having a hard time, but asking for help when you need it is the easiest way to escape an overwhelming thought or feeling. More often than not, those around you want to help, and you never have to feel like a burden to loved ones.
If you don’t feel like you can turn to anyone you know, there are online communities and phone numbers you can call for guidance. Remember: you’re never truly alone, and staying connected in some capacity helps remind you that your problems and worries are never too big to resolve. Especially during times when you’re feeling burnt out from stress, having a trustworthy outlet can make all the difference in the world.
So, whether it’s slowing down, talking it out, or taking it in that you need, do what feels best for you: beating burnout is all about finding what works and applying it, so you can focus on what truly matters in the coming year.