Cara de Lange, founder and CEO of Softer Success talks about the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic and what this could mean for our mental health, along with a few tips and tricks to help avoid burnout.
Ongoing isolation, uncertainty and economic hardship could lead to a mental health crisis arising as a ‘crisis from the crisis’ warns the World Health Organization. A reminder that our response to the pandemic should not only include physical measures but mental health support as well. We’ve been warned about a possible secondary epidemic of burnouts and stress-related absenteeism in the latter half of 2020 so it’s clear the time to take action is now. I believe that knowledge is power. The more we know about burnout the better equipped we are to prevent it.
Burnout occurs when we’re mentally and physically exhausted however many people don’t know how to recognise the signs of emotional exhaustion. Put simply – if you’re getting enough sleep and still waking up tired, it’s a sign that you probably don’t need more sleep — you need more restoration and recovery breaks throughout the day. Irritability, an inability to focus, a lack of energy are all signs that we need to restore ourselves.
There are three ways that we’ve found can really help prevent burnout during times of uncertainty.
Claim your right to rest. In general, our society doesn’t know how to rest, and we don’t give ourselves permission to rest. It may help you to see rest as essential to consider certain occupations where a lack of sleep could have very visible consequences. For an athlete, for example, rest days are as important as training days – without recovery, the body would not be able to perform well. Similarly, pilots, truck drivers, and doctors work a certain number of hours and are then legally obliged to rest and take time off. We can easily see why we wouldn’t want an overtired surgeon to operate on us, but why can’t we see that rest is equally essential for every one of us? In Western society, many believe getting by on little sleep earns us bragging rights. When in reality, our effectiveness and resilience in the world — especially during tough times — demands that we view sufficient sleep as a non-negotiable.
When you’re rested, you are more creative, productive, and able to solve complex problems. You are energized and at your best, giving your full attention and engagement to whatever you’re doing. This is especially important when you’re involved in something that brings out high or difficult emotions.
Disconnect. In order to feel connected to others, we first have to feel connected to ourselves. Taking a break from others to connect with ourselves helps us recharge so we can truly serve the cause that we want to serve, and be present with the people we care about.
“Disconnecting” looks different for everybody, but one of my favourite ways to unplug is to go for a nature walk or for a run. Although you’re physically moving your body, you’re resting and rejuvenating, connecting with the earth and yourself. In a soul sense, that is restful and recharging. There are other ways to disconnect that don’t require a lot of time. You might simply set aside a few minutes each day just to sit and be. Meditation is one great way to do that; scrolling through social media, on the other hand, is not.
Use your time wisely. We all have the same 24 hours in each day, and our energy is precious — we shouldn’t just let it spill out everywhere. Rest, recovery, and reflection help us get in touch with where and with whom we truly want to devote our time and energy.
Cara de Lange
Burnout Expert, Speaker, Founder & Author of Softer Success
Cara de Lange is an international burnout expert, speaker and founder and author of Softer Success, empowering some of the world’s leading organisations and their employees to proactively prevent burnout. Cara’s powerful programme ‘Prevent Burnout, Find Balance’ enables individual clients and corporate teams to create a more harmonious, peaceful and productive life.
Cara is a sought-after keynote speaker on the subject of burnout and has been invited to speak at organisations such as Google, Box and European Women in Tech. Her book Softer Success: Prevent Burnout, Find Balance and Re-Define Your Success, published in 2019 is available via Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble.