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Combating Workplace Burnout/Fatigue Through COVID-19

Part 3: You must have the discipline to help you avoid burnout.

Zoltan Tasi/Unsplash
One has to discipline themselves to help combat workplace burnout
Source: Zoltan Tasi/Unsplash

The following was shared with me, and I was given permission to use it for my blog.

In having to deal with the uncertainty of the world in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we often find ourselves dealing with workplace burnout and/or fatigue. There are four ways to combat this in your life: awareness, balance, connection, and discipline. This is the final part of a three-part series called "Combating Workplace Burnout/Fatigue Through COVID 19." In the previous blog post, I shared the balance and connection factors. Next, I will be sharing discipline.

4. Disciplining ourselves to do self-care

Author and podcaster John "Jocko" Willink—a well-known, American retired Navy SEAL Officer who commanded Team 3's Task Unit Bruiser in Ramadi, Iraqi—has a motto. His motto is "Discipline Equals Freedom." If we discipline ourselves to do self-care, we have the freedom to enjoy fulfillment.

The ABCs of self-care are awareness, balance, and connection; however, without the "d," discipline, we fail. We have to discipline ourselves to do the ABCs of self-care. Again, there is no magic fairy dust for correctional fatigue; we can't just "snap out of it." The things that help the most are the things that seem the most difficult to do; however, they are only difficult without discipline.

Awareness: Be aware of what is working well in life, and be aware of what is not working well in life, and adjust.

Balance: Find balance in work, play, and rest. Balance fatigue with fulfillment; balance diet and exercise; balance stress, “blowing off steam,” and sleep.

Connection: Stay connected. Look for support from people you trust; be a support for others with a trustworthy, non-judgmental, active listening ear.

Discipline: "Discipline Equals Freedom"—we must discipline ourselves to do self-care.

Do things we enjoy (or used to).

While we can't force ourselves to have fun or experience pleasure, we can push ourselves to do things, even when we don't feel like it. We might be surprised at how much better we feel once we're out in the world. Even if our fatigue doesn't lift immediately, we'll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as we make time for fun activities.

Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively. Go out with friends. Take a day trip, like to a park, go for a hike, or my favorite, go to the gun range.

Develop a "wellness toolbox" to deal with fatigue.

Come up with a list of things that we can do for a quick mood boost. The more tools for coping with fatigue we have, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you're feeling good:

  • Practice combat breathing. We must wash our hands so many times a day—why not multi-task and practice a few combat breaths while washing or sanitizing your hands.
  • Exercise as much as needed.
  • Connect, communicate, and talk with co-workers, friends, or family face-to-face.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Schedule rest daily, relaxation weekly or monthly, and vacation annually.
  • Take a long, hot bath (or shower if you prefer) to relax.
  • Prepare a good meal for yourself and to share with others.
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Read a good book; watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Write in a gratitude journal and list what we are thankful for. This has been called the 15-minute miracle.
  • Listen to music.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Do something creative and/or spontaneous, like checking out the Wim Hof Method.

Challenge negative thinking

Do you feel like you're powerless or weak? That bad things happen, and there's not much we can do about it? That our situation is hopeless? Fatigue can put a negative spin on everything, including the way we see ourselves and our expectations for the future.

When these types of thoughts overwhelm us, it's important to remember that these are symptoms of our fatigue, and these irrational, pessimistic attitudes—known as cognitive distortions—aren't realistic. They are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. However, when we really examine them, they don't hold up.

But even so, they can be tough to give up. We can't break out of this pessimistic mind frame by telling ourselves to "just think positive." Often, it's part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that's become so automatic we're not even completely aware of it.

Rather, choose to identify the type of negative thoughts that are fueling our fatigue and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking. Take a breath. Change our thoughts, and they become our words; change our words, they become our actions; change our actions, they become our habits; change our habits, they become our character; change our character, it becomes our destiny; change our destiny, and it becomes our posterity (for those who come after us).

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing—the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." —Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist, author, and Holocaust survivor

When to get professional help for fatigue

If you've taken self-help steps and made positive lifestyle changes, and still find your fatigue getting worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn't mean we’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in fatigue can make us feel like we're a lost cause, but fatigue can be treated, and we can feel better!

Don't forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if we're receiving professional help, these tips can be part of our treatment plan, speeding our recovery and preventing fatigue from returning.

More from Michael J. Rounds B.A., L.A.C.
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