With unemployment at 8.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seven states are turning off the unemployment benefits. In Washington, D.C., a nationwide stimulus bill remains in limbo. On the other side of the country, wildfires rage on the west coast – making it unsafe to go outside in Seattle and Los Angeles. In Oregon, where over 900,000 acres have burned, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Portland is 455 – the worst rating in the world (over 300 is considered “actively hazardous”). Is it any wonder why the entire country is holding its breath? With uncertainty at an all-time high, a UK study shows that anxiety has increased by over 240% since last year. Here are three ways to fight stress and stay motivated, even in the midst of deep uncertainty.
- The Stress Test You Have to Pass: In her book, The Upside of Stress, Stanford health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, describes how the way we look at stress can increase its harmful effects. The key, she explains, rests in your viewpoint. One perspective about stress is that stress is harmful: experiencing stress takes away from your performance. But, as outlined in her TED talk, and in her book, a fresh perspective changes everything. People who are more successful at dealing with stress are the ones who accept the fact that a stressful event has occurred and is real. Denial, or distraction, isn’t a long-term strategy. Telling yourself a lie and hoping it comes true isn’t going to provide lasting motivation. Ultimately, a lack of acceptance causes greater stress, burnout and anxiety – because you can’t work through what you won’t acknowledge.
- Allowing for Zoom Fatigue, Burnout and Stress: Psychologist Frank Tallis, author of The Act of Living, says, “We live in a society where we’re always told to aim for the stars. But there are some situations where that isn’t helpful.” In Psychology Today, he points to the philosophy of acceptance. “A courage to take a look at reality, not flinch, take a step back and accept,” is how he describes it. But often, seeing stress for what it is (a state of mind) requires stepping back and changing the channel. Meditation can help. But so can taking a walk, or simply writing in a journal. The idea is that stress isn’t bad. How we accept (or reject) our circumstances is where the difficulty arises.
- Understand Where Stress and Burnout Really Rests: Shakespeare wrote, ”There is nothing either good or bad, but our thinking makes it so.” My thinking is the place where I find two things surrounding burnout: feelings of stress, and a pathway to success. The way we think about our circumstances – our mindset – shapes our experience. Anxiety, Zoom fatigue, burnout: it’s our thinking that can help us to find new solutions, or be beaten by circumstances. Which path will you choose? McGonigal points to mindset interventions – a catalyst for responding to social problems. The key to successful interventions? Finding a mentor or coach who knows how to be a true catalyst for a fresh perspective. Meanwhile, step back from the screen, and give yourself a break. If you’re stuck in a mental rut, grinding out another email or line of code, no wonder you’re not making the best decisions. Clear your mental chamber before your head back into another zoom meeting.
“With so many people working from home, it has been harder to separate work life and personal life – for many of us the two have become intertwined,” according to Matt Stephens, author of The Engagement Revolution. “Therefore, as employers we need to go beyond only caring for employees’ ‘work self’ and start to care for the whole being.” Motivation, like most aspects of work these days, begins at home. Powering off might just be the best way to power through.
Remember this maxim: You will never regret being kind. Change always starts with a single thought. A single catalyst, if you will. And, if you will, perhaps you will see that being kind to yourself is the first step towards a fresh perspective. Acknowledge and accept where you are, and what’s going on around you. Notice that you’ve got some stressful thinking going on, because we all do! Don’t deny or distract – close that laptop and let it be. See the role that your thinking is playing within your circumstances. Could a shift in perspective be what takes you away from burnout, stress and zoom fatigue? The answer is yes, but only 100% of the time. If you’re really interested in beating back burnout, zoom fatigue and anxiety, start with this question:
What’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself, right now?