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2 Years of COVID… Am I Doing This Right? Part 1: Surviving or Thriving?

By Alexis Eades

Surviving or Thriving? Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

Well, here we are in 2022. How did that happen so quickly? The holiday season is largely behind us (despite the fact that grocery stores are already stocked for Saint Patrick’s Day… can we get one moment to breathe?) For many, the usual gatherings were reduced or postponed because of COVID. Personally, I saw my holiday plans completely thrown on their side. And on top of that, work felt like it was coming at me a mile a minute. And I know I’m not the only one.

What do we do, when work feels overwhelming and your personal life is full of disappointment? Last year I wrote about burnout, and not to toot my own horn but I think I explained it very well, and I think Tim Coyle gave some excellent advice. So, if you need a refresh on what’s going on in your brain, and Tim’s tips and tricks, click here.

But this burnout I’m feeling today feels different than the burnout of November 2020, when the pandemic was only months old and not years. In many ways, things are better now than then, but in many ways the frustration is the same. But as we learned from 2020’s burnout blog, the more you train your brain to be negative and frustrated, the quicker it goes to that emotional state. Great.

So… 2022… Work is not slowing down. I’m still dealing with loved ones having COVID. And everything feels overwhelming. This time, I thought I would ask a wider variety of people about their experiences with the stress of the pandemic and work. After all, I can’t imagine what Christmas week would have looked like if I had young kids or a sick spouse to look after. As it was, juggling work and prepping to host Christmas Eve was hard enough!

Elise: Accept the Awful and Find the Silver Linings

I first turned to Corporate Paralegal Elise Ariel, who is a single-mom. I asked for her biggest advice to handling the unique illustrated woman balances many tasks at oncecocktail of COVID, holiday, and work stress. She said, “Accept that the situation is, in fact, awful, and that we are ALL struggling.  You don’t have to like it. But, the sooner you accept the circumstances, the sooner you can come up with a plan to survive *and* thrive. Personally, and professionally. No one is happy about wearing masks at work or missing holidays with loved ones. It’s important to recognize that we are all feeling overwhelmed.  Kindness counts, now more than ever.” I love the advice to be kind, both to yourself and to others during this time.

Elise also emphasized, “If you can’t find a silver lining, MAKE one.  During the lockdown, my ex-husband and I had conversations we may have otherwise avoided. We discussed things like how to balance our work schedules with our son’s care. As a result, we’ve cemented our blended family, largely due to how we shared work and parenting duties then. While we all want things to return to normal, it’s important to appreciate the moments that make our current life meaningful.”

OK, so basically her advice is to accept that things kind of stink (no toxic positivity, thank you)… But to also find the silver linings that do exist. Ok so for me, my big New Year’s plans were cancelled because everyone else got COVID. That led to a really nice one-on-one, quiet evening with my boyfriend. So, I can acknowledge that I felt disappointment AND admit we did have a nice time. And I should take note to appreciate that. Because it turns out, practicing gratitude can affect the hormones in your brain, and make you happier. In fact, there is a lot more research backing this up than you might think! 

Ok, so now that we are perhaps in a better headspace, what do we do on a practical level to prepare for a time you know is going to be demanding? I asked another mom, and one of the most impressive managers I know.

Kristin: Make a List to Feel Less Stressto-do list

Kristin Esposito, Senior Graphic Designer, has a daughter who is both precious and very little. She leads our graphic design team while being an incredible mom. This is bound to come with a lot of stresses and so I asked her what her biggest advice is to avoid the overwhelm.

“Just keep a schedule and do what you can when you can. The more you get done ahead of schedule, the more you can dedicate time with family and friends. Making lists helps me stay on task and helps me feel less stress for all I need to get done for the holidays. Just being able to be in the moment and making the season magical for my family is the most important thing.”

I love her advice about keeping a schedule and trying to get as much done ahead of it as you can. Christmas shopping in September, anyone?

One way I do this with my team is to prepare for when we know someone is going to be out. For example, we wrote and approved most of our social media posts for the week my coworker was out before she was away, even though we don’t usually do them that far out. That enabled me to focus on other work and know that that was taken care of when we had less staff that week. Which was particularly helpful because that was also the week I was planning which appetizers and desserts go well with seven fish…

Kathleen Pearson: Remote Work Ground Rules

Next, I asked Training Manager Kathleen Pearson, who noted the importance of self-care. This is something Tim mentioned as well, but let’s dive in a little further.

She said, “The largest downside of working remotely is that work is always a fingertip away.  24-hours a day, seven-days a week. But I learned that to be productive you have to have down time, or you will burnout. For months, I was certainly headed toward burnout.  I checked my emails and Teams Chats all the time. I never stepped away from work, and neither was my spouse.  This started to be a problem at home. We each seemed to be giving more and more time to work and less time to family.”

no cell phonesShe continued, “Realizing this, my wife and I sat down and decided to put together some “Remote Work Ground Rules”.  We decided unless one of us was facing a deadline, a problem, or a specific need, we would only turn our computers on from 7:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday.  I know those are long hours, but it works for us.  After 7:00, we turn off all notifications on our mobile devices. This offers us more time to be present together without any work disruptions.  These few small steps have made a great difference in our lives.”

I felt like a bobble head going through her advice, because I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement! I have learned the same lesson. Down time and time away from work, even when the computer is right there and it’s tempting to just respond to one more itty bitty email… Nope. Boundaries are the key to maintaining any healthy relationship, but especially the relationship between you and work. Don’t believe me? Check out what some experts have to say here and here 

Looking for what to do in your down time? Don’t just scroll numbly through social media. To best fight against burnout, you should explore what activities make you feel the best. Here are some ideas…

To Be Continued…

You might be asking why I haven’t addressed the stress of changing COVID protocols and employees going back into the office either full time or hybrid or deciding not to go back at all. Hold onto your hat and stay tuned! I’ve never done a two-parter of an Am I Doing This Right, but this topic is too big to confine myself to one article about it.

Hopefully at this point you remember what burnout is, have identified where your biggest stresses are coming from, and have learned a few new tips to curb the stress when you spot it creeping in. As we approach the second anniversary of the pandemic, this feels very important to me. If you’re wanting more on the bigger picture of what two years of COVID means, day-to-day stress of a world that is partially in the office and partially virtual, and what our company has been doing in response, be on the lookout for the next time I ask “Am I Doing This Right?”

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2 Responses to “2 Years of COVID… Am I Doing This Right? Part 1: Surviving or Thriving?”

January 18, 2022 at 8:30 pm, Sue Zitzman said:

Great article. Good insight on how everyone is coping with Covid and all the modifications of our daily routines.

January 18, 2022 at 10:09 pm, Allison Colantuoni said:

Great article and advice from some spectacular women!

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