Pandemic burnout: The top five ways to fight back

Multi-tasking lifestyle expert Meaghan B. Murphy certainly practiced what she preached when her entire family contracted COVID-19 last month – and only really recovered two weeks ago.

The mom-of-three, editor-in-chief of “Woman’s Day” and regular guest on “Today” told The Post: “I don’t look on the bright side, I look on all sides.

“Our diagnoses took me to a bad place and I allowed myself to sit with the anger, sadness and fear. But then I reached for my toolkit to find a way forward with positive actions.”

Now, Murphy has shared those tools in her new book: “Your Fully Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with Yay” (Tarcher Pedigree, out Feb. 23).

Whether you have the virus, are getting over it or, like so many of us, are suffering from pandemic burnout or lockdown fatigue, her easy hacks provide useful solutions.

Meghan B. Murphy, author of "Your Fully Charged Life," a self-help book, photographed at one of her local bookstores.
Meghan B. Murphy, author of “Your Fully Charged Life,” a self-help book, photographed at one of her local bookstores.
Stefano Giovannini

“We have lost our jobs, our livelihoods, our businesses, our health, our sense of safety, and, in some cases, family members, but we don’t need to get caught up in the hardship Olympics,” added straight-talking Murphy, 45. “We can learn to cope with optimism and grace.”

From reappraising overwhelming thoughts to improving sleep and establishing boundaries, here are her five top tips:

Reroute your brain

“You have to absolutely recognize what’s tough and give yourself a moment to acknowledge that it sucks,” said Murphy.

“But often the best way to get unstuck is to reframe your thinking.”

While there are so many circumstances that are beyond our control and can’t be changed, our reaction to them can.

“For example, instead of thinking: ‘Why me?’ think ‘Why not me?’” she explained.

Planting the seed of positivity can be a game changer – the current harm in the world doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to find joy.

Added Murphy: “It makes you healthy.”

Protect your sleep

The research is unequivocal: Skimping even a little or not getting quality sleep makes you irritable and stressed, increases risk of depression, anxiety and burnout, messes with your immune system and can leave you dragging.

“Very few people need less than seven hours of sleep a day,” pointed out Murphy. “You can figure out your magic number by asking yourself how you’re sleeping and feeling during the pandemic and adjusting the hours accordingly.”

The trick is establishing a routine or pattern that programs your wake/sleep cycle. For example, it might take trial and error to find the exact sweet spot between, say, seven and nine hours. But go by how you feel when you wake up. Ideally you want your eyes to pop open just before your alarm and to feel legitimately rested.

“If that’s not happening after about seven hours of sleep, shift your bedtime by ten minutes for a few nights at a time until you get there,” Murphy wrote in her book.

Interestingly, she put herself on a strict sleep schedule and now tends to automatically nod off at 10.17pm and wake at 5.03am without an alarm. Her experience lends weight to the theory that our on-off switches are better reached for at consistent times of the night and day.

Take all the vacation days

Half of Americans don’t use all theirs. And, even when they do, they are emailing or working in some capacity.

“Not smart,” said Murphy. “Research shows vacations are essential for preventing burnout, as well as for success, productivity and otherwise feeling energized and happy at work and in life.”

She maintained that a lockdown vacation – when there’s essentially nowhere to go – could just be a day’s break from laundry, cooking, your kids or your spouse.

 “Completely unplug all devices as if it were back in the day when you were on a plane without WiFi and completely unreachable,” insisted the expert.

Be a hard-ass about boundaries

Boundaries have become blurry — especially now that our homes are also our offices and classrooms.  Manage by compartmentalizing and completely shutting out one part of life to focus on another.

“This particularly applies to parents,” said Murphy, whose children are 7, 8 and 10. “If I am on Zoom, I’m not worried about my kids and, if I’m at a doctor’s appointment with my child, I’m not worried about work.”

Meghan B. Murphy, photographed with her kids Charley, 10, James, 8, and Brooks, 7, at their home in Livingston, NJ.
Meghan B. Murphy, photographed with her kids James, 8, and Brooks, 7, and Charley, 10, at their home in Westfield, CT.
Stefano Giovannini

She said it doesn’t make her a “sh–ty mom,” it makes her “a good boss” able to get her job done.

“By the same token, when I’m reading my child a story at night, I’m not answering a text message,” added Murphy.

Build a village, not an island

Especially during the pandemic, we need community support – maybe a go-to babysitter friend or a pal who helps with carpools.

While moms are spending more time with their kids than ever before, they’re also more stressed.

“Yet research shows it’s not the quantity of time you spend with your littles that benefits them most, it’s the quality,” continued Murphy. “So if you’re burned out, you’re not doing you, your kid, your work or anything else any favors.”

She recommends making shameless pleas for help. After all, we seriously underestimate how willing people are to pitch in.

“Talk to a fellow parent or a friend about taking your kid sometimes,” Murphy said. “Or barter — trade off dinner prep or babysitting so you each get time to yourself.”

Credit: NYPOST

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