Now is hard.

I keep reminding people of that – clients, family, friends, and strangers. Now is very, very hard.

We’ve been in some form of lockdown for months. We’re in the midst of more uncertainty and upheaval than probably any, or at least many, of us have ever seen or known – with no sure sign of when it will ease.

So, no wonder my client sent the following to me this week:

“Lately the agency has been dealing with fatigue, burnout, and stress. I tried to do some desk research looking for articles to help address these issues but I couldn’t find anything that I felt was from a reliable source. Do you have anything you can share?”

Many, many, many of us are dealing with fatigue, burnout, and stress right now. And, again, none of us know when the seemingly relentless barrage of challenges, bad news, and harsh realities will end.

So here is a beginning list of ways to take care of ourselves – and to lead – as best as we can. Because right now, taking care of ourselves – and then maybe, hopefully taking care of other people – is the only way I know to begin to address these issues.

Let us know what you think of these and please, please, please comment and add your best practices to our list.

  • Be for yourself – I am currently reading Resilient by Rick Hanson. He shares the idea of being for yourself. Many of us are tougher on ourselves than we would ever be on anyone else. Many of us push ourselves relentlessly – and believe that’s the reason for any and all success. But Hanson suggests that when we treat ourselves as we would treat someone (else) whom we loved, we blossom and thrive. And we have more of what it takes to deal with our fatigue, burnout, and stress. (And ironically, more to give to others.)
  • Build compassion – A second step in being for ourselves is treating ourselves with compassion, so yes, I’m suggesting we increase compassion for others (pretty much everyone now is having some bad days) and also increase our compassion for ourselves. We too are having a hard day. We too are suffering. We too deserve our own compassion.
  • Accept – Many times I say (and write) “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems.” (And yes, I am quoting the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book.”) And to again quote Rick Hanson, “Acceptance doesn’t mean complacency or giving up. We can accept something while at the same time trying to make it better.” But by accepting that what is is, we lessen our struggle against what is, which invariably brings us a bit less struggle and stress.
  • Look for the good – I know that there are many, many things that seem “wrong” right now, and I also know that there is also good and beauty abounding. Again, our brains have evolved to be Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good, and we can make the effort to notice and appreciate that good. Which, again, eases our struggles and helps us lessen – or at least better move through – the fatigue, burnout, and stress.
  • Find community and support – We are by our very nature communal animals. Part of what is so painful and challenging now is how restricted we are from being with many we love. Or just being with others. There are ways to find and build community. There are ways to find support. It may not be what it was before, and it may not be as satisfying, but building your community and asking for support – even if it’s virtual, socially distanced, or online – will again, give us more endurance for now.
  • Rest – Enough said. Try to get more sleep, not less. And for those of us who are having trouble sleeping, know you’re not alone (especially now) and at least let yourself rest in ways that feel good to you. Try to lessen your own pressure on yourself to get enough sleep, and search the many online articles that offer a few sleep hacks. Because, trust me, fatigue, burnout, stress, anxiety, and pretty much everything is worse if you’re sleep deprived.
  • Eat well – This is maybe another no-brainer and also hugely important. Give your body the care and nutrients it needs (and the treats it sometimes needs as well).
  • Ease your heart – Now is hard. What are the things, people, actions, thoughts, daydreams, memories, etc. that ease your heart and bring you joy? Do them.
  • Move – Another no-brainer that we hear tons about. I don’t really care what movement means to you, but find some way(s) to move. It enhances our sense of well-being; it strengthens our resilience; it eases our stress, burnout, and fatigue.
  • Take breaks – One of the biggest challenges I see my clients facing with working from home is that they somehow think they have to be always on. Or, even if they don’t think that, they still can’t seem to put boundaries between their work and their lives. Our bodies need breaks. Our brains need breaks. Make them part of your daily routine.
  • Hug someone (or something) – Again, as communal animals, we crave physical touch and affection, and in this new world, our physical touch or affection may be limited. If there’s someone in your life whom you can physically hug, hug them. If not, hug virtually – nowhere near as good but maybe better than anything. Try “text” hugs. Hug or snuggle with your pet or a stuffed animal. If nothing else, hug yourself. Physical touch lessens fatigue, burnout, and stress.
  • Put your hand on your heart – Thank you Tara Brach. For me, putting my hand on my heart (and even saying, out loud or to myself, “it’s okay sweetheart”) is so soothing. Try it.
  • Love yourself more – Seriously. It really does lessen fatigue, burnout, and stress. It may sound a bit wooohooo or like it has nothing to do with leadership, but Lucille Ball was right when she said, “Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Find kindness and compassion for yourself. Take care of yourself. See the good in yourself. It will not only make your days easier and sweeter, it will also give you more strength and resilience to face all we must face right now.
  • Practice gratitude – It changes mindsets. It eases stress. It (literally) opens our peripheral vision so we see more possibilities. Gratitude and appreciation don’t necessarily make everything better, but they do give us more stamina, resilience, and joy with which to handle fatigue, burnout, and stress.
  • Be mindful – So does mindfulness. It gives us more space in our brains so we can be more responsive rather than reactive. It builds our mental muscles that give us the perspective and strength to keep going – despite and through – the fatigue, burnout, and stress.
  • Spoil yourself – Again, seriously. Take care of yourself. You deserve it. Find what eases your stress and soothes your aching heart. A warm bath, aromatherapy, a massage (if you’re willing and can do it safely), an impromptu day off for a hike, whatever indulgence that helps you…

Now is hard. We need to take care of ourselves – and others – even more. Please add to this list because, in truth, we’re all in this together.

How are you handling your – and your team’s – fatigue, burnout, and stress?
Click here to comment.

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