The Catholic News has looked at the stressors of working from home and how mitigate them. Click here for PART 1 to this story
In part two, writer Lara Pickford-Gordon takes a look at the importance of self-care during this period.
Are you suffering from burnout working from home during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are some questions to ask yourself: Have you become cynical or critical at work? Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started? Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients? Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive? Do you find it hard to concentrate? Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements? Do you feel disillusioned about your job? Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel? Have your sleep habits changed? Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
These questions are from the Mayo Clinic, in the United States to assess if someone has burnout. They were for normal working conditions but what answers do they provide now?
‘Burnout’ is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.
Alyssa DeGazon-Roberts, certified professional counsellor with Douglas and Associates Ltd said when people reach the point of burnout, their normal coping strategies no longer help to invigorate them. The first “very basic” advice is to take care of your physical self. A weakened body leaves us open to illness when the immune system is compromised. During this pandemic, we are conscious of health, yet our bodies are being taxed with stress.
DeGazon-Roberts said eating well, exercising, getting sufficient sleep are “the foundation of getting your body in a place where you can manage stress coming at you”. She continued, “If you are excessively tired, if you are not eating things that really nourish your body, it is going to be difficult for you to manage and that is the tie-in of body and mind.” After dealing with the physical aspect, the next part is coping strategies that can be done anywhere.
“It is a practice where we bring our mind back to the present moment,” DeGazon-Roberts said. The example she gives to groups is hand-washing. In the pandemic, this has become a basic action for prevention.
She said, “If we were to tie mindfulness to the act of washing our hands, we would be totally immersed in the act of washing our hands; it would not be another burden, or to-do on our list.” Attention would be on the present act, the feel of the water’s temperature, the scent of the soap, the action of your hands gliding over each other.
DeGazon-Roberts said, “Your mind is not wandering about ‘what targets do I have to meet, what report is due’.”
Can be restorative even for five minutes. When working from home try to find “little moments in the day where you can restore yourself”.
DeGazon-Roberts said, “When we talk to ourselves in negative ways, it creates negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves. We behave then in very negative ways towards ourselves.” Some “cognitive restructuring” is needed to bring about understanding that there will be “down days”.
During this pandemic much of what is felt is not personalised because it connects with many people throughout the world who are also having a rough time. Taking time for self-affirmation and showing one’s self a little compassion can really help. DeGazon-Roberts stated, “while most people can appreciate the benefit of extending compassion to others, especially during difficult times, they seem to be a bit more resistant to practising the art of self-compassion.”
She observed that individuals see practising self-compassion as self-indulgent or an act of “celebrating weakness” particularly when it counters the natural response to “toughen up” during difficult times.
Contrary to this, however, pouring love into self, is actually a major component of building resilience to cope with some of the challenges facing us. DeGazon-Roberts elaborated further, “When we engage in this action of acknowledging our humanity—which is essentially what the self-compassion practice requires—we can then develop further capacity to do the work of working through our difficult emotions and behaviours.
Self-compassion can be practised in the following ways:
Reach out for support
Draw on support from family, friends, significant other or a therapist when feeling particularly overwhelmed.
DeGazon-Roberts said, “a therapist is important where you may need to just get out of your head for a bit and speak to someone who can provide that support, who can provide that theoretical backing”. Persons must be willing to recognise the point when they cannot continue on their own: navigating through a global pandemic is new. She continued, “It is not just my neighbourhood facing COVID-19…when we realise the scope of this global crisis it provides a bit of perspective to normalise our feelings. It is expected given this current climate.”
She stressed the need to pour love back into self, “cut ourselves some slack” and realise functioning the same as before won’t be possible. The ‘new normal’ is a term bandied about but DeGazon-Roberts reminded that “it is moving and morphing as we speak” and adjustments will be needed since there is no end in sight.