I have a confession to make. Before COVID-19 hit, and working from home became the new normal for a lot of people, I assumed that it was not possible to be as productive at home. If you are an individual that has WFH long before 2020 came hurdling towards us, I apologise profusely because now that I have become accustomed to my new home office, I can whole-heartedly assure you that this is not the case. It did take me a while, I was working from a laptop on my kitchen table for months before I decided it was probably time to make my spare room an office. Alas, a few months in I was in my stride. “This is great!” I told colleagues, I have a much better work life balance and I’m saving a ton on petrol! However, as I stood last night at 10pm checking my work phone for the third time that evening I realised… I have never found it so hard to switch off from work as I have done this year. In fact, when I really thought about it, I haven’t had a good nights sleep in a long time…
Often you don’t know you’re over-working or over-exerting yourself until it’s too late and it’s something you have to recover from rather than avoid. Sometimes you notice it in yourself, other times someone who spends a lot of time with you notices a change in your behaviour. Having gone through this a couple of times but also as someone who has witnessed others close to me struggle with burn-out, I have become quite aware of the red-flag signs that I, or those closest to me, are heading for a burnout. (Please note I’m not a health professional this is strictly from experience only!)
SIGNS OF A BURNOUT
- You’re more irritable or emotional than usual. The little things you normally just let slide become a huge irritation to you. Or you start snapping at others for no reason.
- You’re having trouble focusing. You could have a list as long as your arm of things to do but you’re having difficulty concentrating on things for a long period of time or feeling proactive.
- You’re tired even after a good nights sleep. Ever heard the phrase – The kind of tired that sleep can’t fix? This.
- You don’t want to socialise even in your “down time” A cruel truth but something that could bring you some light relief is the furthest from your mind. It’s easy to want to crawl under a duvet when you’re feeling low but often it makes it worse long term.
- You are getting more headaches than usual. Headaches are a huge red flag for stress. There are other physical implications that come from burnout, including lowered immune system. Not great in a pandemic!
- Stop deviating from your set work schedule. If you work a 9-5, work 9-5! Some jobs don’t come with a set schedule but if yours does – please stick to it, the world isn’t going to fall apart if you switch your computer off at 5pm.
- Make a conscious effort to spend less time on your phone. Put your phone down and pay attention. If you’re after a good book recommendation check out my Instagram, I’m something of a bibliophile!
- Make the most of your time off. Sometimes a day in front of the TV is just what you need but sometimes it’s not a great choice. If you’ve spent a lot of time indoors during the week, getting out in the fresh air could do wonders. Seeing people (I know…2020) is even better.
- Talk to your boss. If you are experiencing job-related stress you need ask yourself where that pressure is coming from. Are you pushing yourself too hard or is your boss placing unrealistic expectations on you? If it is the latter, it’s time to have that conversation. If you are a student, your tutors and professors are trained to be able to help you with this! There will be dedicated student support staff on site.
- Prioritise self-care. This doesn’t have to be face masks (non-corona kind) and a glass of wine (although yes please) Listen to some music, go for a drive, call a friend, have a bath, exercise…just do something that brings you joy. That lets you escape the world, even if for a short time.
Sometimes it feels easier said than done but if you find yourself heading towards a burnout you need to pull back. No matter the job, situation or environment you find yourself in, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So eventually, something is going to have to give. Please don’t let it be your health.
If you need help please don’t hesitate to reach out. Here are some of the helplines in the UK with special individuals ready to listen (taken from mind.org.uk):
- Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
- SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
- The Mix. If you’re under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
- Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you’re under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email email@example.com or text 07786 209 697.
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, you can call the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) or use their webchat service.
- Nightline. If you’re a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email firstname.lastname@example.org or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.
- C.A.L.L. If you live in Wales, you can call the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text ‘help’ followed by a question to 81066.
- Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnershipwebsite for a directory of UK helplines. Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.
Thank you for reading, stay safe and stay well!