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Coronavirus: How to prevent work-from-home burnout

With millions of Americans moving to a new work-from-home reality, burnout is on the rise.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 73% of working professionals are feeling burned out, up from 61% in early February, according to a survey of nearly 7,000 individuals by Blind, a workplace community app.

Not only are more people feeling the weight of exhaustion and high stress, but the reasons behind those feelings have also changed. In February, the top reasons for burnout included unimaginable workload, insufficient awards, and lack of support from managers. But now working professionals worry about lack of work/life separation and job security.

Coping with and preventing WFH burnout during the coronavirus pandemic requires different measures than in normal times, experts said. Here’s what you can do.

New normal, new expectations

Candid of young asian single female student work late night stress out with project research problem on computer laptop or notebook at home office. Asian people occupational burnout syndrome concept.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 73% of working professionals are feeling burned out, up from 61% in early February.

A new normal requires setting realistic expectations about your performance and workload. Working from home during a pandemic is a very different challenge than what you’re used to, and needs to be treated as such, said Kori Linn, a career coach who focuses on burnout.

“If you expect yourself to be able to do all the things you can normally do, you will likely feel overwhelmed and exhausted,” Linn said. “Adjusting the definition of what it means to have a successful day can help you stay motivated during a time when many of us are feeling heightened stress and anxiety.”

Figuring out how to stay afloat may be difficult, so take your time to find new best practices and routines, “in order to do well over the long haul,” Linn said.

Build a new routine

Come up with a practical system that works for your new circumstances, while taking into account both your work responsibilities and home obligations, said Wendy McCallum, a professional coach and wellness expert.

“Better to feel like you’re meeting realistic targets than to fall into a guilt spiral trying to meet outdated and unrealistic goals,” McCallum said. “Be kind to yourself. Being flexible and redefining productivity expectations may be necessary to set yourself up for success in this ‘new normal.’”

It’s also important to split homeschooling and childcare responsibilities with your spouse and have uninterrupted time to focus on work duties.

Find a space where you can’t be interrupted and create rules with your family. You can do this by having a family meeting and to make sure everyone is on board, McCallum said.

Bottom-load your day

Your energy is a finite resource, so prioritize the most difficult tasks for early in the day and leave the easier ones for later in the afternoon.

“We have the most willpower in the tank in the mornings, and that dwindles as the day goes on,” McCallum said. “For that reason, a great strategy is to get the hard things done when you’ve still got willpower to burn.”

Exhausted businessman sitting at desk in office at night
Your energy is a finite resource, so prioritize the most difficult tasks for early in the day and leave the easier ones for later in the afternoon

If exercising daily is a struggle, do your walk or yoga session first thing in the morning instead of leaving it for the evening.

Don’t skip meals and make sure to include time for eating in your new routine. One way to do it is to pretend you’re still going to the office and pack your lunch before your workday starts. Grab it “to go” when lunchtime rolls around, McCallum said.

Self-care is essential

Working on your new schedule and daily routine is not enough; make sure to include time to relax and recover.

If you give all of your time to clients and your family, you will quickly become resentful and will eventually burn out,” McCallum said. “Make a list of little things that help you to feel healthy and balanced, then set reminders on your phone to make sure a couple of them happen every day.”

For example, dedicate time for a 30-minute walk, a long, hot shower, and 10 minutes of meditation, which can go a long way towards preventing burnout, McCallum said.

Nutrition and sleep

Make sure you take advantage of the time to rest and get the right nutrients. Try developing a sleep schedule and sleep hygiene as this a great way to prioritize rest, according to Ericka Eller, a stress management coach.

“Giving your body nutrients through whole foods will help energy production, sleep, focus, and lowering inflammation,” Eller said. “Eating foods that are inflammatory and hard to digest (processed foods, sugar, alcohol) will only add to a body already under chronic stress.”

Denitsa is a reporter for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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