Five Minutes to Thrive: Reducing Telework Burnout
By Dr. Ashley Kilgore, 5th OMRS Mental Health Clinic
/ Published April 22, 2020
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Team Minot, for many of us we’re beginning a steady flow of telework, which is perhaps longer than many of us expected. Some of us may be experiencing symptoms of burnout - emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged task saturation. Burnout leads to feeling overwhelmed, drained, unable to meet demands, and can result in the loss of interest and motivation to take on certain roles. Burnout reduces productivity, and leaves you feeling inert, increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynicism, and resentment. “Spillage” from burnout can impact all areas of your life and decrease your body’s immune response, leaving you more vulnerable to illness.
It’s important to acknowledge that, 1) burnout can happen even (perhaps especially) during telework and 2), there
are things you can do to reduce your risk of burnout:
Turn to others - Reaching out to those closest to you and increasing sociability with coworkers (even if via text) can help buffer you from job burnout. Limit contact with negative people that drag down your mood, and connect with a cause or a community that is meaningful to you.
Reframe your outlook on work - Try to find some value in your work. To gain a sense of purpose and control, focus on how your work helps people and aspects of your job that you enjoy. Friendly interactions with co-workers (even virtually) are good countermeasures for reducing monotony and the risk of burnout. Tasteful jokes relieve stress, improve your job performance, and can get you through a rough day.
- Set boundaries & stick to routines - Set a time each day to completely unplug. Turn off your computer or work phone. Replying “to just one more email” will rob you of time to give to other worthy priorities, and make you less pleasant to be around. Don’t let telework contaminate your entire sanctuary space (home), identify a workspace and keep it confined, don’t bring work into relaxing spots. Remember to take time off or take a break. It may seem odd to request leave when we’re at home all the time anyway, but if burnout is looming, take a break.
- Get enough sleep- Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout and cause you to think irrationally. Keep your cool by getting enough sleep. You may not have to get the kids up early for school, but staying up late to watch “just one more episode” of your favorite tiger show can increase your risk of burnout.
- Exercise & Relaxation – Even though it may be the last thing you want to do, exercise is a powerful antidote to burnout. Gym closures don’t mean that physical health needs can’t be met. Get creative with your workouts - go for a walk, run, or look up free workouts online. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, cooking and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, reducing the risk of burnout. When this is all over, you’ll be glad you stuck to a workout routine and fought burnout at the same time.
- Eat a healthy diet -What you eat can have huge impacts on your mood, energy, and waistline. Limit snacking for you and the kids, and only eat when you are hungry. You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods, but these quickly lead to crashes in mood and energy. Avoid nicotine and use alcohol in moderation - both may provide temporary relief from stress and worry, but actually create more anxiety as they wear off. Plan your meals and get creative with new food choices. Try cupboard roulette for dinner.
For questions, contact Dr. Ashley Kilgore (email@example.com) or the Minot Mental Health Clinic at 701-723-5527