Big time burnout is building with our new COVID-forced work from home society now.
People are taking fewer vacations, less breaks, and working longer hours at home than they did at the office.
Parents are trying to juggle the stuff they have to get done for work with the stuff kids have to get done for online school, so any break they might have been able to take is gobbled up with helping their kids.
Either way, kids or not, any established rhythms of the office, commute, lunches, etc., are gone, and it’s taking its toll.
Most people are already feeling it, but if you aren’t yet, you may soon, so let’s get a handle on this now before it damages your brain, body, and health!
Here are some simple strategies you can do right now. The more you do them, the faster you will establish your new routines and habits, so they become as automatic as your old habits were at the office.
- Schedule your breaks. Put them in on your calendar and make them non-negotiable. These can be as short as 5 minutes, or as long as you think you need, but at least 5 minutes. You will need at least three in your day, but 5-7 is best, especially if you have a long day. These appointments cannot be moved, skipped, or canceled. This is “YOU” time and they are the most important appointments of your day.
- During your breaks, make sure to A.) hydrate B.) bathroom if needed C.) Breathe (click here for a great technique).
- At the beginning or end of your day, or during a break, send a note, letter, email, or text to someone either encouraging them or expressing gratitude to them. It can be as short as 1 sentence too! Something like, “Hey ___, I was just thinking about you and _____ ” (and then fill in the blank with what you are grateful for, or something that would encourage them).
- Exercise! This can range from as little as 1 minute of isometric contraction to as much as you want, but it needs to be intense enough to spike your heart rate to 75% of your max heart rate (220 minus your age) at least once in the session for the brain chemical benefits and stress-busting benefits to kick in. Be sure to breathe deeply the whole time too, especially full exhales, in order to deactivate your fight or flight response.
- Set an auto-reset timer to go off every 15 minutes to remind you to change your posture and fully exhale. This literally takes 1 second and will be another way for you to effectively break your stress pattern and turn off fight or flight.
Why so much talk about fight or flight? Because most of us are stuck there and it’s killing us – literally. When we are stressed all day with how much we have to do, our body thinks we are constantly running from tigers and when we are in that mode, our cortisol hormone levels are chronically elevated. Cortisol is the most fattening hormone in the body, so when it stays elevated, it’s next to impossible to burn body fat.
Our fight or flight response is designed to stay activated for 20-30 seconds, in order to get us out of life-threatening situations. If you are being chased by a tiger, everything will be over in about 20-30 seconds, when you have either escaped, or he has caught you and has “turned off your lights.” Cortisol helps you get away from the tiger by shunting blood to your muscles and giving you a big shot of adrenaline for extra energy and focus. It’s also fattening, for other reasons, but that’s fine if it only lasts 20-30 seconds. You can’t store much fat in that amount of time.
When it’s all day, on the other hand, you store a lot of fat! That is another reason the five steps above are so helpful. You will be more likely to avoid burnout, but you will also be training your body to get better at turning of fight or flight mode, so you are able to burn fat more effectively.
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