How to Take Care of You While Working (and Living) From Home

We’ve been at this for two months now—working, living, wondering: Will life ever be the same?!

We’re getting there, but it’ll take a while. What will the new normal look like anyway?

The cliché phrase, however, provides some comfort now. We truly are all in this together. Me, you, our families, your nonprofit. We’re all in this together. And we’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, we’ll look after one other.  

With that said, how are you? Do you have a nagging feeling that you need to stop, take a break and take care of you?

If so, you may be heading toward burnout. Heads up for these signs:

  • You’re done, as in DONE. Moving beyond feeling tired, you are exhausted, mind, body and spirit, struggling to engage in even basic home and work tasks.
  • And you don’t care. You see the wall that you’re about to hit but you’ve left your cares behind. At this point, you’re mentally disengaging a bit and feel like what you’re doing really doesn’t matter or make a difference. You just don’t have the energy for it.
  • You feel like you’re working in circles. Not being as focused on the task at hand opens doors for distraction. A half-hour later, you’re back at the starting point, wondering where the time went. Then you’ve decided you’re done, as in DONE. Burnout becomes a vicious cycle of thinking.
  • You’re not feeling the best. Because you’re tired from not sleeping restfully or are awake most of the night thinking of what could happen—or what isn’t happening. Those headaches and stomachaches, and other physical ailments, are becoming more regular too.

What Causes Burnout?

No experts needed here; common sense will tell you why you may be feeling burned out. It’s been a perfect storm of situations: 1) a global health emergency that 2) drastically disrupts “business as usual” and forces us to adapt to a constantly changing work environment and 3) will likely have long-term impacts on how we conduct the daily business of work and life.

Essentially, we’re working overtime to meet a new rulebook that changes nearly daily. It can take long, extra hours and always feeling “on” to figure out these new game plans.

Personality proclivities may make you more prone to burnout too. The Mayo Clinic shares burnout risk factors. Do you:  

  • Identify so strongly with work that you lack balance between your work life and your personal life?
  • Have a high workload, including overtime work?
  • Try to be everything to everyone?
  • Feel prone to depression, anxiety?
  • Work in a helping profession, such as nonprofits, health care?
  • Feel you have little or no control over your work?

There is a silver lining in the grayness of burnout, however.

You Can Change This Feeling

The good news is you’ve recognized the signs of burnout, which means you’re still in control over your feelings and situation. You can do something about it.

The One Big Takeaway: Reframe how you think about your work during this time of COVID-19. This line I read in recent writings by Arianne Cohen helps me keep things in perspective:

This is the moment to get it done. This is not the moment to be perfect.

This is a challenging situation that’s rooted in factors I can’t control.

Burnout, Cohen writes, loves perfectionists. If that’s you, or you find yourself getting caught up in the moments of the ever-changing times, repeat the above phrase as often as needed.

Other strategies:

  • Take a 10-15 minute break to do something you love. Water plants, meditate, lift weights, walk around the block, sing! Anything that doesn’t feel like a house or work chore.
  • Keep talking to yourself. (Maybe not aloud; the neighbors will start talking.) Remind yourself that you’re doing all you can to take care of work-related issues and organizational plans to move ahead. Look back at the good work you’ve done so far. Steady yourself with a breath and a break before diving into larger work projects.

Here’s how some of our Stelter people recharge to ward off the signs of burnout. Maybe you’ll find in them a source of inspiration.

Taking my laptop outside to work in the sunshine helps. –Estela Villanueva-Whitman, Editor Team Leader

Long hikes through the woods with my family. –Zach Christensen, Creative Director and Director of Marketing

Taking a walk or working in the yard is a great way to re-center and get a little exercise at the same time. –Terri Krueger, Client Success Manager

Biking, running. Family movie night. –Lynn Gaumer, Senior Gift Planning Consultant 

I have been spending a lot of time with my kids. … I know this window won’t be open in a few years (when they’re all in the throes of the angsty teenage years), but I’m thoroughly enjoying them and we’re getting so much quality time together. –Jody Gifford, Editor

Working from home now, I’ve been nesting, treating myself to fresh flowers and making sure my workstations are comfortable, calming spaces. –Kasi Zieminski, Senior Content Strategist

Listening to everything from choral music to Metallica on my Amazon Music app, pausing every couple of hours to read The New York Times/Washington Post websites or one of my favorite bloggers, and indulging in the beloved sweets that will one day kill me. –Kevin Cox, QA Coordinator

Here are some things I’ve been doing a couple of things to cope with COVID-induced stress: Wim Hof Method Breathing—this has been hyped up by so many celebs, I finally had to try it. And it works. He has a 40-Day Quarantine Challenge that incorporates cold therapy (cold showers) as well. Also, yoga. The Down Dog app offers an array of yoga practice types, lengths and levels, and they’re free.  –Aimee Menhusen, Marketing Communications Specialist

Did You Know?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s continue to look out for one another and #makeitok as we work from home and, in the coming months, transition back to the workplace (maybe). As we do, remember that these are the moments when we don’t have to get it perfect. So take care to avoid burnout—and to stay in the moment of looking after your nonprofit’s mission for the long term.

Feel free to post this checklist where you’ll see it often to remind yourself to focus on more important things—your health and well-being in the time of COVID-19.


What are you doing to keep burnout at bay during this time of COVID-19? Share your tips for how you’re not just surviving but thriving.

2 thoughts on “How to Take Care of You While Working (and Living) From Home

  1. Drinking more water, having essential oils going in my work space, having my work space with some “pretty” things too and walking outside on breaks all help to combat stress for me.

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