My experiences with mental health in 2020: How I cope with fatigue and burnout

Your mental health matters. Prioritize taking care of yourself.

I’m just going to get it out there; this year has been awful. There’s literally bad headline news every day. As if that isn’t enough, we have to contend with a once-in-a-century pandemic (just in case you’d forgotten). The implications of what we are all facing are a health crisis, economic crashes, and worse.

Mental health is one issue that I’ve had to face and work on. I’ve worked in communications and marketing for twenty years, and I’ve never struggled more than now. The work seems to be endless, and the “home office”, devoid of any social interaction with colleagues and friends, can mean twelve-hour days without meaningful human engagement. There’s random guilt as well, mainly over seeing friends being laid off while I’m complaining about how much there is to do. And there’s the obvious worries about how to keep others safe. These are the big, substantial concerns. There’s a thousand others which I have to contend with every day.

I’ve always had coping mechanisms to deal with stress and negativity, but I’ve had to adapt them given what we are all living through. And I wanted to share them with you. Even if just one of these mechanisms helps, it’ll have been worth the time and energy put into this piece.

Be Social – When I was commuting, driving between my home and my office, I’d call people on the hands-free and just chat. It was a wonderful way to keep in touch with people. I’m doing the same, but from home. I’m picking up the phone and just calling friends. I dial a number for no reason other than to ask someone how they are. It’s been great to talk with old friends, and it puts me in a different frame of mind, at least for a couple of minutes.

Fix the Miscommunication – Working side-by-side with others makes for simpler communication than email. There’s the body language, the tone and the delivery. None of this is apparent on email. And sometimes I misread the email. And I’ll get snarky, which doesn’t help me or the person I’m communicating with. I often find it’s useful for me to pick up the phone and just chat over the email, so that I’m clear what’s needed. It also helps the relationship, as it shows the other person I’m putting in the extra mile to get the work done.

Find Your Release – Each one of us has a distraction, or even a passion that can distract our minds. For me, it’s early morning walks and writing. These releases help me rebalance, and put me in a good mood. What helps even more is to have a routine that includes these releases. What’s your release? And are you doing it every single day? Switch off your mobile and close the computer. Go and do that release for half an hour at least. It’ll put you in the right frame of mind.

Get Away – I don’t mean right now, of course. What I’m referring to is a break of a couple of days. I didn’t travel this summer, and I love my vacation. What we did do as a family is a staycation for a couple of days. And it was a wonderful release to get away from home, leave the laptop behind and just relax. If you can, get away on a regular basis. Even if it’s only for a couple of days, traveling makes me forget all of the stresses and pressures of work.

Reach Out For Help – I’m very lucky. I have an incredible partner who has worked in senior marcomms roles. She understands my job and its stresses. And I have an amazing five year-old daughter who tells me to “come and play”. They know when I need a break, and they tell me to take it. Others may not have this family support. If you are feeling down, reach out for help. It can be to a friend or a colleague (I’d like to say a charity such as the UK’s Samaritans, and I hope we’ll have such charities here one day soon). Don’t suffer alone, and don’t feel ashamed. Your mental health matters, and it’s a sign of strength to ask for support.

I’ll be speaking more about this and other topics with a brilliant panel arranged by Campaign Middle East on the 26th October at 2pm. Please do join me then – the signup link is below. And in the meantime, do take care of yourself.