Whether you’re dealing with achieving a new pandemic “normal”, getting back to daily commutes and busy in-person schedules, coping with the impact of crazy weather systems, or feeling anxious about the fragility of the political and social situation in Ukraine, it’s impossible to avoid the fact the last few weeks have been a LOT.
Worry and fear are abundant, and our cognitive loads are… well, overloaded.
Late in 2021, news stories circulated about “the great resignation”, a prevalent trend in the US and Europe, where the pandemic caused millions of workers suffering from burnout to re-evaluate their work-life balance and quit their jobs. New jobs, downsized roles, career change, self-employment, or increased carer duties among the most popular alternatives.
This piqued my interest and I started watching closely to see how this would play out here in Australia.
However, as the months progressed into 2022, I became aware of an adjacent trend that seems far more common.
A lot of us just scraped through 2021, physically and emotionally. Work-wise, you were either doing whatever it took to keep your job or business afloat, or putting in “all the hours” overloaded by work and reduced resources. This amongst home-schooling, restrictions, vaccinations, and little or no time off. Few escaped being hit with some level of stress or crisis fatigue.
The “Great Disillusionment” or the “Great Slump”
So, it’s no surprise, many started the year feeling tired and flat, rather than refreshed and re-energised. And, at the same time, workplaces, eager to get back on track, have upped the ante on performance expectations.
What I’ve been hearing from clients is, while the increased pressure makes the idea of quitting appealing, for most this is neither an appropriate nor realistic option… at least not in the short term.
Research from Gartner found the willingness of workers to go above and beyond at work fell ~14% in the third quarter of 2021 and Gartner HR vice-president, Aaron McEwan, sums up the essence of what I’ve heard from those I work with – “There’s a very strong sense that, ‘we’ve proven ourselves, we’ve done the hard work, we’ve done the hard yards, we’ve delivered on what you’ve asked for. Now it’s time to give us a break’.”
If you’re a leader, it’s probably time to proactively revise your workplace wellbeing strategies to stretch beyond “mindfulness moments” and “virtual lunchtime yoga”. For workers without this level of influence, there’s likely little you can do to change or repair what’s happening around you… but, there are some simple steps you can make to manage yourself through this time.
5 things you can do to survive your “great slump”
1. IDENTIFY THE CHANGES WITHIN YOUR CONTROL
Is your fatigue leading to poor choices and unhelpful habits? Has healthy eating, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep been cast aside because you haven’t got the energy? When you’re tired, “treating” yourself with an evening on the couch to “relax” comes easy. Nutritious food and hitting the gym won’t magically take all your stress away, but even small changes in these areas can help you sleep better and improve your mood.
2. MANAGE YOUR WORK BOUNDARIES
Managers and business leaders have a habit of coming up with lots of new ideas, projects, and initiatives, with consideration to what’s already on your plate. While it’d awesome if they realised this, it’s likely creating this awareness with fall to you. Prioritise what’s important and work out what can be delegated or removed. Set up your schedule to manage your availability and aim to leave work at work (even if you’re at home) at the end of each day. You need to manage your capacity; others won’t do this for you.
3. SPEAK TO OTHERS & ASK FOR HELP
It’s possible your colleagues, peers, or friends, are also feeling this way. Talking to others, even for a short moment can be enough to re-energise you for a whole day. Make time to have a chat with another person as often as you can. If you work for yourself or work from home, schedule a time to leave your regular workspace and interact with someone else – walk to the local shops, get a coffee. And it never hurts to ask for help… speak to your manager, other colleagues, friends, family or a coach. Support is always more available than you think.
4. PLAN & TAKE A BREAK
It’s time to take a break, an actual break… without distractions. No work emails, no work-related calls. Whether it’s an impromptu micro-break during each working day or planning and booking your next holiday, you need some time off. Taking a break from thinking about all the things you “have to do” is the best way to gain a refreshed or different perspective. And, if you can’t take a break right now, then planning one for the coming months is the next best thing.
5. FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT
It’s easy to feel like things will get better when you’re less stressed and things are less busy. But unfortunately, that time is not coming. If you want to feel more energised, you need to start acting more energised. Yes, it’s a classic psychological catch-22 that you want to wait for your emotions to change before you do anything different. But the fastest way to change the way you think is by changing how you act. Start by asking yourself, “if I was motivated and enjoying work right now, what would I be doing?”… then consider how you can start acting in this way.
Please note, if you’ve tried these types of strategies and they’re not helping you to refresh and re-energise, you might be burned out. Burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, with feelings of detachment, lack of motivation and loss of identity. If this is you, aim to find a way to take a real break and seek professional assistance to support your recovery.
If crisis fatigue has caused you to re-evaluate what you want from you career and you’re not making progress figuring it out on your own, let’s discuss how I can help you put some helpful habits in place to kick start your progress.