It is no surprise that we are working under tremendous pressure in these times. Some of us are tired of the ‘permahours’ of working from home, where the line between work hours and hours to relax is blurring with every passing day. Some of us are working in the office, with literal shields around us, desperately hoping for the well-being of one and all. And then there are those of us, with the best (worst) of both worlds, shuttling our time between offices and working from home.
As if this wasn’t stressful enough, we are approaching a slump in the festivities after weeks of quiet and happy celebrations.
This is a classic recipe for a spike in the stress levels, overwork and overburden. Before one can realise, exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of low self-efficacy could creep in, leading to an eventual burnout, ultimately affecting the cognitive and physical health.
Winter is on its way, and the sun sets early, the darkness comes in before one can even begin to enjoy the colours of the sunset. It’s a bad combination of the pandemic blues, the seasonal blues and the post festive blues! So, what can we do in these times to take care of ourselves? Let us quickly take a look!
The Art of Staying Connected:
These days, staying connected consistently, and not waiting until the last moment when one begins to feel isolated, is indeed an art. One has to be connected in just about the right amount, so as to keep a check on the near and dear ones, to have a sense of (virtual) community and to be communicative when it comes to work. And one has to be disconnected in just about the right amount too, so as to not end up working 24/7, to not have a Zoom fatigue and not make the notification sound a trigger of anxiety.
The latter part is where most of us are struggling.
Fix a time and make it a point to stop checking notifications related to work beyond that timeslot. If possible, decide upon a code with your colleagues about high priority messages which everyone should use in case of work-related emergencies. Life can become easier when we know which messages and emails one should pay attention to immediately and which ones we can save for later.
Ask and Clarify:
Communication is indeed the key, for a well-functioning relation. This includes your relationship with your work. If you feel unclear about a task, ask. If you feel you are not sure how to go about an objective, ask.
Often, because of a lack of clarity in our understanding of a task, we end up spending an inordinate amount of time on it, leading to overwork and overburden. We tell ourselves, ‘I’d rather do extra work than fall short.’ A great attitude to get stuff done; a not so great attitude to reduce stress or prevent a burnout.
A way to avoid overworking is to know exactly what you need to work on.
Setting Your Goals for the Day:
When it comes to aspects about self-care, avoiding stressful blues and preventing burnouts, it becomes necessary to set goals of all kinds, and not just the professional ones.
So yes, your to-do list for the day might include getting in touch with that client who has been (im)patiently waiting since a couple of weeks now. You might have to work on an agenda that was fixed in a meeting. You might have some coordination to do and a team to put together for that next project. Prioritising is indeed necessary, and we probably know tons of techniques by now.
But your to-do list should also include getting in touch with an old friend you have been reminiscing about. It should also include indulging in a session of watching your favourite movie, putting up a relaxing playlist to listen to after work, and patting yourself in the back for all that you managed to accomplish in the day, no matter how trivial it might be. Goals about being productive and goal about self-care can, and should, go hand-in-hand.
It might not always be possible to avoid overwork, overtime and hectic schedules. Being stressed out is a part of life. Pandemic-, post-festival-, seasonal- or just Monday blues creep up without our knowledge, suddenly and inevitably. But how we respond is in our hands.
And finally, on a lighter note, it is also in our hands to turn around the meaning of ‘feeling blue.’ Blue is the colour of calm, the colour of that flowy music, the colour of the still and relaxing ocean, and what’s more, it’s the colour of India’s sporting jerseys! We sure can turn the blues into something fun if we want to.