Feeling Overwhelmed at your Non-Profit Office or at Home? You Have Good Reason

Heavy non-profit organization workloads are stressful.

Combine that with the monumental shift in how and where we fundraise caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for on-the-job burnout.

What is Burnout

Burnout is caused by excessive, prolonged stress. It can affect a person’s emotional, physical, and mental well-being and is most often felt during times when a person is overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and dealing with constant demands. During our current state of social distancing you might be experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed at work, untethered from your co-worker support team, pressured to learn new technology, and disorganized in a new work environment. All of this can cause major disruptions to at work.

Symptoms of Burnout

Just like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, burnout can come on slowly and you may not see the obvious signs of being overwhelmed. If you begin to feel any of these symptoms it’s time to examine your workload for troubled areas.

  • Lack of structure – Moving from an office, with its well-established policies and procedures leaves some people feeling lost and out of control. Without the normal setting—with the regular routines, key people to turn to, and the you can expect at a job—you may experience a constant feeling of anxiety.
  • Difficulty setting boundaries – The constant demands of home life are part of the package when you work from home. Interruptions from your children or spouse, or a barking dog while you’re on a call can be jarring and throw you off track from your work.
  • Social isolation – A sense of isolation is also part of working from home, especially if you live alone. Many people find their social life through their jobs and without it they miss out on the normal interactions that enrich their lives.
  • Lack of focus – Being overwhelmed requires a break in the action. That can come with a plan, or it will come as an unscheduled visit to your favorite social network site, a phone call to a friend, time catching up on news, or, now that we’re working from home, that housework that needs to get done. It’s a roadblock that can derail your entire day.

Managing Burnout While Working from Home

Getting yourself out of a state of burnout is possible and there are many techniques and tools to choose from to fit your personal preferences. Work with a combination of work-related, mental, and physical tools that will provide you with a balanced routine of good self-care that will put you on the path to controlling those feelings of being overwhelmed. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Managing Your Work Life

1. A workable schedule – Make out a schedule for your day and stick with it. Take a good look at what you’ll be doing and make sure to include breaks that will get you up and moving. There’s always a load of laundry to do, right?

2. Prioritize the toughest tasks first – Begin with the most difficult tasks and get them out of the way. You won’t have as much to dread later on when your attention begins to wane.

3. Organize the night before – Give yourself a good start tomorrow by getting organized the night before. You’ll find it’s much easier to accomplish tasks if everything you need is ready and waiting for you when you wake up.

4. Delegate tasks – Enlist people to help when you’ve got too much on your plate. Both in regard to work and at home. They’ll need your help someday, too, so be ready to answer the call when you can.

5. Get used to your technology – Some of us love it, some of us loathe it. Whichever camp you fall into, we’re living in a technical world. Learn the new apps, software, and whatever else you’ll be using before having to rely on them for meetings and working with your co-workers.

6. A productive work area – Create a workspace that works for you. Have your equipment and materials organized and within easy access. Make sure you’ll be comfortable physically and in a semi-private area, as if you were at the office.

7. Devote your work time to work – Turn off your notifications, close the door to your office, and stay away from distractions that will suck up the time you have to put in to get the job done. Save those things for later when you don’t have to feel guilty about the work you should be doing.

8. Connect with co-workers – There is so much value in the casual interpersonal interactions we find at work. They are friends, mentors, and, of course, colleagues. Keep those relationships strong with prescheduled virtual lunches, coffee breaks, or happy hours. Maybe even the introverts will join you now!

9. Ask for Help – No (wo)man is an island, even if we all feel like we’re stranded on one at the moment. If you need help, ask. There are plenty of people who are anxious to share their knowledge with you and offer your own when an opportunity arises.

Keep in mind that you also have the right to say “no.” Make sure the situation is right, that you’ll be working with the right people, and the knowledge or skill required is something you can offer. The word “no” your ally when combating unnecessary work and drawn out projects with difficult co-workers.

10. Explore Your Timing Issues – Estimating the time it takes to complete a task is a tool you can use to get the most out of your day. It will help you stay on track and push you to complete your work in a reasonable amount of time.

Managing Your Home Life

1. Balance the work – When you work from home you’re faced with all the things you need to get done for work, plus your chores at home, too. The good news is you get to choose what and when you do them. Put variety into your daily schedule by mixing up the activities that fill your day. Start a load of laundry, then go answer emails. Finish a meeting, then make that quick run to the store. It’ll give you time to refresh before starting another project.

2. Create and prioritize a home “to-do” list – Just as it is at your job, you are best served if you are able to stay organized. Keep a running list of the things you need to get done and methodically check off each item as you completed it, starting with the most important first.

3. Mind your health – You’ll be more productive if you care for yourself. Commit to the exercise, healthy eating, and activities that can relax you and feed your overall health.

4. Listen to some music while working – Listening to music is relaxing. It can also help you focus when you are used to the noise of a busy office setting.

5. Look away – Pause regularly throughout your day to walk outside and enjoy the natural sunlight. It’s a few moments that will pay off big time.

6. Think positive thoughts – Negativity is a real drain on everything you do. Fortunately, you can control those bad feelings by readjusting your outlook. You’ll soon notice a dramatic shift in your mental and emotional well-being.

7. Pursue a hobby – When you’ve brought the pressures of a job and there’s no way to escape, you need to give yourself a break in the daily routine by picking up a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Learning takes focus, leaving your mind free from the feelings of being overwhelmed in your daily life.

8. Create a relaxing space you can visit every day – Introverts, especially, need their space. When you have a houseful of people 24/7 visits to your fortress of solitude can become a rarity. Create a space where you can go to recharge in your home.

9. Get a good night’s sleep – Sleep is an undervalued, yet very important part of our life. If you have trouble falling asleep, try relaxing in a warm bath just before bed. If you tend to get sleepy during the mid-afternoon slump, go take a nap. Listen to your body and obey, or suffer the consequences later when you lose your mental focus.

10. Reward yourself – You’ve done a lot with your day, and it should be appreciated! You may be the only one available to celebrate you, but you should still make it special. Set aside a moment to enjoy your “me” time and do whatever makes you happy.

Your health and well-being are important. Managing your physical, mental, and emotional state is the key to being productive at work and happy at home, and adopting good habits now will help you ride whatever surprises come your way in this uncertain time.


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