Burnout Risk is Greater in Pandemic Times, especially for Working Mothers!
Working mothers have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic. In addition to balancing their work responsibilities from home – many working remotely for the first time – they are also having to serve as school mistresses and child-care providers, pushing many to the edge of burnout…and beyond. What’s a working mother to do? Read on for 5 ways to prevent or arrest burn-out …
What is burnout? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and is characterized by energy depletion, mental distance or feelings of negativity toward one’s job, and reduced efficacy. With the recent workplace impacts resulting from the pandemic – including the morphing of “home” into “workplace” – working moms are at greater risk of burnout than before. In 2019 Deloitte reported that 77% of all workers had suffered from burnout at some time; there are no statistics yet for what workers are experiencing during the pandemic, but it is logical that the burnout rate is much higher today than it was in 2019.
What can you, as a working mom, do to ease the effects of burnout or, even better, to prevent it? The field of Positive Psychology offers some ideas for managing the negative feelings that may lead to or come with burnout.
- Everyone can choose how they perceive things, it’s just a question of focusing on the positive aspects of any situation. You might say that there isn’t anything positive about the pandemic and its related impacts … but look closer and you may find something. For many families where both parents work, the last several months has meant the family eats dinner together every night, even breakfast and lunch most days, a rarity for many American households in the twenty-first century. Reframing takes “this is a terrible situation” and turns it into “this isn’t ideal but there are some elements that have made my life better”.
- What Went Well exercise. As a way of providing the raw material for reframing, recognize and record three things that went well each day. Somedays this will be easy – and there may be more than three – and somedays this will be hard. But in doing so, you can train your psyche not only to find the positive, but also to create the positive. One way to enhance this practice is to add the part you played in making each thing go well, or really stretch your mind and find the part the pandemic has played.
- Make at least one social connection each day. Social connections have suffered greatly, both the significant ones with friends and family as well as the casual connections with relative strangers while in line for coffee, while selecting produce, eating out, getting a manicure, etc. Take the time to reach out to a friend or family member that is not part of your daily routine. A virtual online meeting, video call, or an old-fashioned telephone call will break the monotony of the daily grind and reconnect you with others.
- …. and disconnect. Take time to disconnect – even if only for 5 minutes. Find a quiet space and read some poetry, listen to an audio book, or better still, use a mediation app for a mental refresh. Fifteen minutes is wonderful but even if you can find only five minutes, spend that time disconnecting from what you are doing … the mental break may just give you the energy to get through the rest of the day. Also see “Use the Snooze” on WB4WM.com for an energy boost idea https://wb4wm.com/2018/09/11/use-the-snooze-for-extra-energy-2/
- Self-awareness. I know some working mothers who are thriving in the new flexibility the pandemic has given them. They now spend more time with their kids and get to work when the kids are asleep and their colleagues are offline. They feel they are getting more done. But are they just working more? Stay aware of how much you are actually working and your need to recharge personally … and be willing to let some stuff go so you can take care of yourself by exercising, meditating, and sleeping, of course!
The pandemic has and will continue to alter the way we work and live, I think that is clear. Our lives may be altered in ways we cannot even imagine at this point but staying centered mentally will give us the strength to face the changes, and perhaps even thrive. The key will be preventing burnout, or at least recognizing the warning signs of burnout and then addressing these warning signs with strategies like those mentioned above. Don’t wait until it’s too late – try one of these strategies now and prepare to meet the challenges ahead!