Consider Big Changes
When we began this journey together, I made the point that we are all in this together. The American Psychological Association has done a “Stress in America” survey every year since 2007.  The 2021 survey shows that the impact of 2020 – from COVID 19 to issues of racism and social justice – has been significant. Between 2020 and 2021, more than two-thirds of Americans have experienced sleep issues, almost half of parents have experienced significant increases in stress, and more than 60% have experienced undesired weight gain. We are all feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and perhaps, coping ineffectively with the stressors we carry.
I want to end our course on burnout with a discussion about how you might consider big life changes. Modern life is stressful and difficult, and in many ways, sets us up for burnout. There is work to be done, as a society, in making modern life better, kinder, and less stressful. You can also do work, individually, with your family, and with your friends, to improve your quality of life, and reduce your risk for future burnout.
Could You Be Less Busy?
Modern life, particularly for professional workers, is busy. And busyness signals status. Accomplishment. Power. We have joined the “Cult of Busyness.”  But COVID-19 shutdowns and work-from-home life disrupted many people’s busy schedules. And it’s worth asking yourself: do you really have to go back? What were you doing, before, in your crazy-busy life, that was more about performance for others (at work, on social media) or societal expectations, but that didn’t really suit you or serve your well-being?
One recommendation I have: clear shut-off times for your electronics. Turn off your work electronics at the end of your workday. And turn off all electronics for a reasonable bedtime.
Maybe you’ll keep working from home in some form or some amount, which saves you the time of commute. But the challenge of work-from-home, or just bringing work home at the end of a long day, is that you never get a mental break. You need a mental break. You need to have space for yourself, time that belongs to you and your family, not your employer. And, if you’re a parent, your kids need it, too. Research has shown that parent’s worries impact their kids, and if you bring home stress from work (or keep working at home), it impacts your children. COVID 19 disruptions have impacted kids, too, and the last thing they need is adding parental stress onto their already overwhelmed little shoulders. Turning off your electronics at the end of your workday is a good transition, and a good way to create work-life distinction for your family’s benefit, and your own.
Imagine Your Future Self
Maybe you need to switch career fields. Maybe you need to have a hard conversation, perhaps with the help of a mental health counselor, with your spouse or partner about how you manage life at home. Maybe you need to move to a different home or a different neighborhood. I don’t know what you need, but I want to give you permission to consider if you need big changes. You matter. Your well-being matters. Your health matters. If you need to make big changes in order to have a life that makes you feel good – then make those changes. Feeling like your life matters, like your work has meaning, like you have a purpose is key in helping you to feel good about your life.  Research indicates that when we think about long-term planning, thinking deliberately about our future selves can increase our motivation.  So sketch out who you will be in 10 years, and then think about: what changes do I need to make to give future-me the gift of a happy, meaningful life?
Six Stages of Recovery
Research about occupational burnout suggests that recovery is a six-stage process :
1. Admitting the problem;
2. Distancing yourself from work;
3. Restoring your health;
4. Questioning your values and building new values;
5. Exploring work possibilities;
6. Making a change.
I hope that over the course of our time together, you’ve had the opportunity to consider each of these steps and make progress in your recovery toward emotional, physical, and mental well-being. I hope that you have a sense of what changes you need to make, and the motivation to implement them for your well-being. Your future self will thank you.
Other courses by Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura
Share with friends