If you work a nine-to-five job like most millennials do, you probably had or still have to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine orders. The “new normal” has forced most of us to redefine the workplace. But even if we’re working from home in these uncertain times, burnout is still a major issue for a lot of millennials.
And so, for this issue’s TFFs Picks, we want to give you a few ways to cope with (or avoid) burnout. Here are five simple things you can do for your mental health beyond the nine to five.
To unplug simply means to disconnect from your mobile devices. It is one of the simplest yet hardest things to do because we’ve all become so dependent on our gadgets. Not only do we use them for work, but we also need them to stay informed and in touch with our friends and family. If you’re like us, you don’t own a TV as well; we get our entertainment from Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and the like, which we access through our laptops, phones, and tablets.
Even though unplugging can be quite challenging, it will do wonders for your mental health. You can use the time to stay present and to focus on how you’re currently feeling instead of using the internet as an escapist solution. Moreover, unplugging allows you to take a moment and step away from work emails and other work-related things. It forces your brain to set aside work for a while, which can be particularly helpful for those who are not used to working at home.
Just like unplugging, creating allows you to shift your focus on an activity that is not related to work. It may also tap into a part of your brain that you don’t usually use for work. (Analytical thinking activates the left side of the brain, while creative thinking activates the right side of the brain.) But to create doesn’t have to involve a big project. Remember that rest is also important for your physical and mental health.
One of J’s hobbies is calligraphy. It’s simple enough for beginners to pick up, even if you’re not a naturally creative person. It also requires few tools (a pen and a piece of paper will suffice), so you can easily start to learn how to do it.
Aside from art, you can also tap into your creativity through cooking or baking. Both of us love to find recipes on the internet that we can follow, and then make those recipes our own by adjusting them to our tastes. The best thing about these hobbies is that we could eat what we create once we’re through. It also makes us feel happy that we get to share our creations with other people.
Creating can also be as simple as making your own playlist. Curating music that makes you feel good is a form of creative expression as well. Plus, multiple studies have shown that music can help our brains release happy hormones that uplift our moods.
Some people would tell you to exercise regularly. We’re not gonna do that. We’re sure that you already know the benefits of regular exercise to your health. However, as we both know from experience, incorporating exercise as a regular part of our days is really challenging, especially when our jobs get hectic and we also have our website, magazine, and Instagram page to manage.
Instead, let us encourage you to incorporate movement as a regular part of your day. Inspired by the “100 Days of Sweat” challenge from the YouTube channel Yes Theory, our advice is for you to find one thing that will make you sweat during the day. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout. Doing chores, for example, can already make you sweat, so you can count that as a success. Dancing to your favorite music or walking around your neighborhood (if permitted given quarantine rules) can also be fun ways to sweat.
We love this idea because it takes the pressure off. You’re not measuring success based on the amount of weight or inches you lose. And because you’re not following a specific routine, you can do it whenever it fits your day. Most importantly, your brain is able to produce happy hormones as you perform tasks that make you sweat, which ultimately helps you to avoid burnout.
Whenever you feel anxious or stressed, just take five to ten minutes for yourself, close your eyes, and breathe. We find that counting our breaths (seven counts to inhale, four counts to hold, and seven counts to exhale) helps us to clear our heads. You can also play soothing music in the background, just to drown out the noise around you, so you can focus more.
Breathing exercises like this can give you a break from that pit in your stomach kind of feeling when things at work are getting too much to handle. While doing this, you can also check in on your body and look for areas that may be feeling a little too tight or tense. For example, if your neck feels sore, you can move your head around or turn it side to side to release pressure from this muscle group while you’re performing the breathing exercise. This is a simple way to not only avoid burnout but to also be more aware of how your body feels.
This last tip may seem too obvious, but we think that it sometimes has to be said. Our generation has been conditioned to believe that our worth is directly proportional to our productivity. As a result, resting may feel like a waste of time. We’re here to remind you that it’s not.
It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay if you sleep in during the weekends. It’s okay if you want to watch a movie and actually enjoy it. It’s okay if you sit down to read a book. It’s okay if all you want to do is to listen to an hour-long podcast. It’s okay if you do absolutely nothing. It’s okay if you put yourself first.
Rest doesn’t make you less valuable. Please remember that.
You’re like a pitcher of water and your different roles in society are like glasses; you can’t fill the glasses with water if you yourself are empty.
So unplug, create, move, breathe, and rest—these are five simple things you can do for your mind and body beyond the nine to five. We hope that this list has given you some ideas on how you can take better care of yourself. However, at the end of the day, only you know what you truly need. Do what you think is best for you, even if that means doing nothing.