Quarantine and Mental Health: How Remote Workers Can Avoid Burnout
By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
Although working from home used to seem like a dream for many, a quarantine that requires people to be stuck at home for months on end might seem more like a nightmare. No matter how much you love being at home (or love your work), staying in the same setting for days at a time without interacting with others can be mentally draining, to say the least. Add to that confinement and repetition another half-dozen or so stressors, and you’ve got a recipe for work-from-home burnout. Here’s a closer look at how being in quarantine can affect your mental health, and what you can do to avoid burnout.
What is Burnout?
For those who are unfamiliar, burnout is a term used to describe a condition of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that’s typically caused by being exposed to excessive stress for long or repeated periods of time.
What’s Causing Burnout Right Now?
Many people may be experiencing burnout related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of stress that’s related to any of these conditions:
- The devastating health effects of the pandemic itself
- Demands of caretaking duties for infected household members
- The loss of normal, daily routines
- The repetitive nature of life in quarantine or self-isolation
- Restrictions from showing affection or physically connecting to those outside your inner circle
- The inability to go to social gatherings and “blow off steam”
- New responsibilities, such as homeschooling or caretaking
- Learning and adhering to new safety procedures
- Dealing with food or supply shortages
- Cancellation of doctor visits, dental procedures, surgeries, and other healthcare appointments
- Instability of the economy and job market, loss of jobs or income
- Tendencies to work harder or longer hours to make up for income shortfalls
- … and much more.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
If you or a loved one have been dealing with excessive stress levels and feel you (or they) may be suffering from burnout, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Physical Symptoms: On the physical level, you may feel tired and drained most of the time, have unexplained headaches or muscle pains, or disruptions in your sleeping and dietary habits. Additionally, you might experience a lowered level of immunity, which can cause you to become ill more frequently — a side-effect that’s especially frightening during a global pandemic.
- Emotional Symptoms: You may experience emotional symptoms such as a loss of motivation; a sense of self-doubt or failure; feelings of helplessness or being trapped; detachment or a sense of isolation; a cynical outlook on life that seems to be getting worse; or a general decrease in your level of satisfaction with life.
- Behavioral Symptoms: You may find yourself doing things such as isolating further from others; using food, alcohol, or drugs to self-medicate; withdrawing from everyday duties and responsibilities; taking out your frustrations on others; and procrastinating or becoming stagnant in work or household projects.
Now that you’re better equipped to recognize the symptoms of burnout in yourself and others, here are some suggestions to help you address and avoid the phenomenon:
Create a Designated Workspace
It’s difficult to clear your mind and focus on work, recovery, or stabilization amid a chaotic environment. One of the best things you can do to work-related burnout while in quarantine is to create a designated workspace for yourself.
Remove anything from the space that stresses you out, and replace it with décor and supplies that help you feel calm, safe, and productive. If possible, claim a space with a door that closes.
A space of your own can give you somewhere to retreat to, reducing the anxiety caused by clutter, noise, or other elements that distract you from your work.
Don’t Get Distracted by Household Chores
While keeping up with household chores is imperative to your health and well-being, you also need to allow yourself to rest when you’ve done enough: Putting off scrubbing the tub until tomorrow won’t kill you. Likewise, not taking out the garbage for a few days won’t be the end of the world.
On the other hand, too much undone housework can add to your mountain of stress. Try to do the minimum you can manage so you don’t fall too far behind. If you struggle with getting dishes done, see whether it’s feasible to invest in a dishwasher. Likewise, if you’re feeling hemmed in by clutter throughout your home, consider undertaking a big cleanout and disposing of everything you no longer use or need. Once it’s done, you’ll have fewer chores to face!
Address Your Financial Fears
Another way to avoid burnout is by addressing your financial fears. Given that you may have lost income, benefits, and more, you may be hyperaware of your financial status, which can cause severe levels of stress. However, by taking the time to carefully plan out your finances moving forward, you can address this issue and alleviate the feelings of helplessness and panic that often accompany it.
Start by assessing your income and expenses, and creating a budget that can work for the foreseeable future. Check your credit and the balance in any savings accounts. Then look into financial coverage. If you’re a homeowner concerned about being blindsided by expensive repairs, consider purchasing a home warranty that supplements your homeowner’s insurance. A warranty that covers potential repair costs for appliances and systems such as heating, air conditioning, and plumbing can help ease some of your financial fears.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Experts agree: You should also make self-care a priority. This pronouncement gives you license to make time for napping, reading, grooming yourself, exercising, dancing, laughing, and anything else that helps you relieve stress and feel your absolute best.
Getting outside your house (safely masked and distanced) is an especially healthy form of self-care. For instance, you can go for a bike ride through the neighborhood, take the dog to a secluded water spot, or take a drive out of town. Any of these can be a liberating way to release negative energy, while also allowing you to get some fresh air and explore new areas safely.
If you find yourself questioning your career choices or worrying endlessly about your financial future, setting goals is a productive way to counteract these frustrations. Focus on the short term, long term, or both; it doesn’t matter. In any form, goal-setting is a proven way to cultivate a hopeful mindset and keep yourself distracted from current woes while supplying the motivation you need to work toward improving your circumstances.
Burnout may be increasingly common these days, but it doesn’t have to become a pandemic in its own right. Implement these tips, and you’ll be much more likely to sidestep or even eliminate burnout from your pandemic playbook.