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A wooden surface with a book open with glasses sitting on top, a candle, a camera, a hat, a striped cloth, jeans, and sunglasses lying about.

By Taylor Adams, Manager of Workplace Mental Health at Mental Health America

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to feel powerless and isolated. Our inability to chat with friends and family face-to-face, grab a happy hour bite to eat with coworkers, and have a one-on-one with your boss has strained our already-tenuous balance between “work” and “life.” Zoom is now the new “office drop-in.” Emails, blogs, and newsletters flood our inboxes like there’s no tomorrow. While videoconferencing and calls can be helpful tools to stay somewhat connected and informed, they tend to sap a ton of our emotional and mental energy – a commodity that is in short supply already due to the pandemic – leaving us extremely fatigued.

This new dynamic we are all facing can exacerbate numerous mental health issues, including burnout. Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Although burnout is specific to the workplace, people are facing stressful and traumatic events in their personal and professional lives that are being compounded by current circumstances, and thus, becoming increasingly difficult to manage.

Similar to other mental health concerns, burnout does not go away on its own and needs a concentrated effort to help alleviate. It may not be your typical vacation, but a staycation can still help you stave off the effects of burnout, retake control of your daily rhythm, and reduce stress. For those who are working on the frontlines of COVID-19, it is especially important to find ways to care for yourself while caring for others. Here are a couple tips for when you plan your next staycation:

  1. Just like you don’t want to work where you sleep, you want a space where you can relax away from work. Clear your desk space, tuck away the laptop, hide your paperwork under plants -whatever you need to do to create a physical space that does not bring your attention back to work. This will hopefully kick that sense of urgency and frustration of feeling rushed when you’re thinking about that pending Zoom call at 9 in the morning and allow you to take a breath for once.
     
  2. Many teleworking employees may have some extra time on their hands during this time, but still don’t feel that they have enough time to pursue their hobbies. Don’t let this stop you. Pull out the old resolutions list and start that first recipe, art project, or book. Start with one item and go at your own pace. There is no pressure or urgency when staycation “time” is your “time.” Many people agree that its difficult to focus even on simple, one-off tasks; however, stepping away from work can alleviate stress and allow you to enjoy activities that help you relax.
     
  3. While it may not be a trip to a tropical island or mountainside, a staycation should be fun as it is relaxing. Recreate the experience of a vacation away from home.
    • If you want to go to the beach, plan a tropical themed meal like a teriyaki chicken rice bowl, virgin pina colada, and coconut sorbet. Set the mood by playing ocean sounds on your phone or TV. Decorate your space with tropical plants, fruit, and decorations.
       
    • If you want to go camping, pitch a tent or pillow fort in your living room. Roast marshmallows over the stovetop or warm in the microware for homemade s’mores. Project stars on your ceiling using your phone for a night of “sleeping under the stars.”
       
    • If you want to visit a new city, research the foods, museums, and monuments unique to that city. Decorate your windows with a picture of a city skyline. Cook or bake new recipes that locals swear are the best dishes in town.  
       
  4. Use your staycation to plan your next domestic or international trip when it does become safe to travel. This includes researching the state or country you would like to travel to, creating a realistic budget (or giving yourself unlimited funds!), choosing your ideal accommodations, learning common phrases in a new language, and making a list of regional foods to eat and monuments to visit.
     
  5. If you aren’t able to take a staycation, find ways to reclaim your time at work. Block off one to two days or even a full week on your calendar, if possible. This can help minimize the number of calls or meetings you attend with staff and outside contacts and give you time to brainstorm your next project and focus on the tasks at hand.

If none the above appeal to you, then do whatever that inspires, empowers, and relaxes you. The most important thing is that you give back yourself some time that seems to disappear so quickly during these stressful times. 

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