Just as life was beginning to present some normalcy, new cases of the virus have shot up—particularly in the North—and we’re now in a second national lockdown situation. Maybe this was always on the cards; one thing’s for sure, 2020 has certainly thrown up challenge after challenge. Stress levels, for many, have increased. Employees are worried about redundancy. Employers are worried about whether their business will sustain through the pandemic and out the other side.
Within businesses that continue to trade, managers and leaders are reportedly stressed. The perception that they must always be seen to be in control, that they should always be ready with solutions to every problem, that they should always focus on the care of their team, is strong in today’s society. These are aspects of a manager’s/leader’s role, yes, but too often we forget that the ones who lead us day in, day out, as well as through unforeseen crises, are human, too. People with the same stress responses and capacity towards negativity as the next person.
What with the threat to our health because of the coronavirus, and the number of businesses large and small who have gone to the wall during the year, as well as the sheer depth of negativity spread via the mainstream media, you would have to be superhuman if you were not experiencing some stress or burnout. Bad news is seemingly everywhere you turn. Social media houses even more negativity, and if that doesn’t get you down, the virtue signalling and the lack of kindness towards others is overwhelming at the moment.
A Significant Portion of us are Feeling More Anger, Frustration, Worry and Stress
Recent surveys have highlighted that a significant portion of us are feeling more anger, frustration, worry and stress than when the pandemic first hit, back in March of this year. The ever-changing rules, restrictions and regulations about what we can and can’t do are having a greater impact now, as they have followed a period when we were effectively ‘let out’, in July.
Not seeing our families and a lack of physical interaction are both unfortunate aspects of the pandemic that are also taking their toll. Experts claim that ‘touch deprivation’ can eventually lead to stress, anxiety and depression in individuals, as well as a weakened immune system, which is the last thing you want during a pandemic.
Prevent Burnout – Look After Yourself
You must have heard the saying ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. This should apply to all leaders and managers at this moment in time. You deserve to look after yourself, to practice self-care. If you don’t, eventually, you won’t be much help to the people you lead anyway, as prolonged periods of stress, leads to overwhelm and burnout.
If you recognise that any of the above is having more of an impact on you than simply ‘getting you down’, don’t wait until after the pandemic is completely over before you take some time out to rest and recuperate; that could be a long time from where we stand today. If you’re not sure whether the situation is affecting you, look for the signs: broken and/or poor-quality sleep, brain fog and a short temper, amongst others are some of the most common signals of the onset of chronic stress
Some leaders are afraid to show their vulnerability. They believe it will look as if they’re not capable of doing their job anymore. They may fear individuals in their team will try and snatch their position.
Don’t allow these beliefs to consume you until you’re close to burnout. For those heading down that path, there are things you can do to hopefully avoid this.
Block Out The Negativity
You can’t influence what the media reports. You can’t stop your connections arguing on social media. You can, however, take a step away from all the doom-mongering.
Limit the time you spend scrolling through your phone during your downtime. Choose to read a self-help book for half-an-hour each day, or listen to an uplifting, inspirational podcast whilst you’re cooking dinner, for example.
Watch a comedy or an episode of your favourite show in the evening rather than the news. Don’t be tempted to bring work home with you, either; create a clear boundary between work time and downtime.
Similarly, when in work and around others, if someone on your team is self-pitying and dwelling on the drama of the pandemic, have a conversation with them and explain how much of an impact their words/mood could have on others. Ask how you could help them to flip their thinking. Try to find out what in particular is worrying them and creating their stress and what would help them at this time.
Take Joy in Helping Others
If you’ve become bogged down by negativity and hopelessness, concentrate on helping others. Whilst this could involve the people on your team, it may also be simple things that could make a difference to someone in need.
Pay the bill of the person in the car behind you at the drive through; give an hour of your time to helping in your local foodbank; add a few extra items to your weekly food shop for the collection most supermarkets arrange for those in need.
The pleasure and joy that can come from giving back can be a welcome distraction in a world of negativity, helping to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
If these examples are too much to consider at the moment, just keep to the following as a minimum: write down three things each day that you’re grateful for. It could be something small, like hitting all the green lights on your way into work/when you’re heading home, the range of beautiful colours amongst the leaves of autumn, that you have your health when there’s so many testing positive for the virus worldwide.
Where it’s Safe to do so, Hug Your Loved Ones Hard
You can hug the people you live with and those within your support bubble. It’s not just that it’s allowed, it should be actively encouraged. We’ve become accustomed, in such a short space of time really, to keeping our distance from others and seeing human touch as something that’s outlawed.
It’s important for all of you that you physically interact. Remember what we said above about how touch can boost your immune system rather than destroy it, not to mention the endorphins you’ll feel from hugging the ones you love are a great antidote for stress and Burnout.
Practice Good Physical Health
If you’re someone who lives on a sugar-heavy and caffeine-fuelled diet, you’ll inevitably suffer from mood slumps throughout the day. Don’t skimp on your sleep, either, as you may not have the fuel reserves to get you through the day; Burnout is the equivalent of your car running on fumes as it heads to the petrol station—and the risk that it could cut out at any moment.
Exercise has always been a staple of the government’s recommendations even during the first, and perhaps more strict, national lockdown. Getting out and about in the fresh air—even if it’s just for ten minutes during your lunch break—can make a huge difference to your psyche.
You can’t control the pandemic. You can’t control the mindsets and worries of others. You can, however, control your own actions and reactions to the widespread negativity and fear that currently surrounds us and in doing so, reduce the likelihood of experiencing prolonged periods of stress and burnout