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Nine strategies for overcoming lockdown burnout

30 September 2021

Lisa Grey, burnout expert and lead clinical researcher at BePure, shares with us nine actionable tips to navigate lockdown-related burnout.

WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand

Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

Having gone through her own journey with burnout, Lisa Grey is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to navigating stressful times and pathways to recovery. Since the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Lisa has witnessed an increase in clients battling burnout, a severe form of exhaustion resulting from repeated and prolonged mental and physical stress. 

If the stress you are experiencing feels relentless and is accompanied by feelings of exhaustion, negativity, apathy and despair, you are likely experiencing burnout, and putting your health at serious risk.

For many individuals, work is not only a necessity, but also an essential part of our identities. So when lockdowns hit and socialising becomes prohibitive, we find ourselves confined to our homes, with work taking on even more importance. As work offers a sense of connection, meaning, and normality to our days, and with little else to do, we put ourselves at a high risk of over-working, leading to burnout. 

So what can we do about it? Here are nine helpful strategies for combating burnout. Choosing one or two to focus on is a great place to start—trying to do everything at once will only create more pressure, stress and burnout.

1. Set boundaries

Create breathing space in your day by adding ‘no’ back into your vocabulary. No is often the first word we learn, but the first word we stop using as we become socially indoctrinated. 

Say no to running yourself ragged with back to back meetings. Put non-negotiable breaks between Zoom meetings to recenter yourself. Take a few big deep breaths, grab a cup of herbal tea, refresh your mind, and reset. 

If you are a workplace leader, lead by example and help those around you do the same by introducing a minute of meditative silence to the beginning of every meeting. 

2. Organise your space

A chaotic brain needs an ordered environment. Before you can truly make headway on clearing your mind, you may need to organise what’s around you. Less mess means less on your to-do list and a lower sense of pressure and urgency to get it all done. 

Also, having a desk space that is used only for work purposes signals to your brain that you are not at work when you are not at your desk. Step away from your desk for lunch and avoid using your bedroom for anything other than rest. Our brains run on patterns called schemas that encourage us to look for familiar environmental triggers to unconsciously guide us. If we have one space for work, our brain learns not to associate work with any other part of our house. 

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3. Meditate

While daily meditation can seem burdensome, it’s a powerful antidote for stress and increases levels of feel-good hormones oxytocin and serotonin. 

Meditation centres the mind, slows breathing, and enables the body to find a sense of calm. When we are calm, we can achieve a sense of mental clarity and avoid moments of frustration that happen when we feel overwhelmed. 

If self-guided meditation is beyond your reach, try a mobile app like “Calm” or “Insight Timer”. Both apps offer a variety of timed meditation sessions that can help you go from chaos to clarity in as little as five minutes. 

4. Move your body 

Physical movement is one of the most underutilised tools for fostering mental wellbeing. Find a good routine that permits you to challenge your range of motion, cardiovascular health and strength. 

Movement boosts neurochemicals like endorphins that make us feel good and have an instant mood-lifting effect. In one study by the University of Vermont, the mood-lifting benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise were shown to last for up to 12 hours. 

Remember, though, when it comes to exercise, balance is key. Too much exercise can lead to burnout. You don’t have to exercise twice a day and for hours on end to reap the health benefits of exercise. 

5. Find your inner creative

Channelling your inner artist is highly therapeutic. Using your creative brain reduces anxiety and stress by boosting levels of dopamine—a pleasure and reward hormone. 

Being creative takes your mind off work and encourages non-linear thinking. If you can’t draw to save yourself, there are many ways to get your creative juices flowing. Painting, puzzling, and pottery are just some of the ways you can unleash your inner creativity. 

Lisa Grey

6. Nourish your body

Aim to eat nourishing meals at regular time intervals and reduce overstimulation from caffeine and processed foods. This will balance blood sugar levels, maintain energy levels, and support balanced and healthy hormones. 

Eating regular meals made from nutrient-dense whole foods also helps to reduce inflammation, support good gut health, and boost our immune system. When we eat well, our body can rest, restore and repair with ease. 

7. Disconnect from technology

Research shows that screen time increases stress levels, including participating in virtual meetings. Keeping your phone and other electronic devices on hand presents a temptation to stay continually connected – even outside of work hours. 

Take some time each day to turn your devices off and unplug from the rest of the world.

8. Build a routine

Humans thrive when we have a daily structure. Routine minimises the number of decisions we need to make each day and helps us keep daily habits that foster our physical wellbeing and mental health. 

Clinically proven to ease stress and anxiety, a routine builds a structure for ample sleep, regular exercise, and balanced meals. 

A routine also helps to limit the amount of time spent at work and provide clear guidelines for work-life balance in your day. 

9. Support your body with supplements

Top up on key nutrients that support symptoms of burnout: magnesium, zinc, omega 3, vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium. Nutrients make up the cells in our body and provide them with the tools they need to function at their best. Secondly, consider herbal supplements that minimise burnout like kava, passionflower, and lemon balm, and adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola. 

Adaptogens are used in herbal medicine to stabilise physiological processes and work to counteract the effects of stress on our body and organ systems. In a nutshell, they help us ‘adapt’ to stress. 

Whether you are wired, tired or both, BePure’s new InnerCalm and InnerStrength contain all of these herbs and many vital nutrients, providing enduring relief and supporting us to rebuild from burnout and fatigue. 

By incorporating some of these steps into your day, the benefits can be huge—helping to increase your resilience to stress and regain balance. 

*This articles does not constitute medical advice. Consult your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements or if you have any health concerns. 

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