In today's world, it's not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed by the influx of information and constant connectivity— especially in the new year as folks set out to reach their goals and stick to resolutions. We are also still very much impacted by the major shifts made by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ushered in significant changes to our daily routines.
Many people are transitioning to back to in-office work situations or hybrid work arrangements; and while these changes can offer some benefits, they can also lead to burnout and other adverse effects on mental health if not managed properly. As we look ahead to 2023 and turning a new leaf, we asked several Black mental health and wellness professionals to offer advice on how to prevent burnout as we find balance in our professional life while also working to reach goals in our personal life.
Seek out community
Connect with others in real life in the new year. Many relationships—for mentoring, professional development or emotional support—arise naturally through frequent natural interactions in physical work environments. "In the absence of that community, people need to be much more intentional regarding seeking community, mentors, and social support," says Dr. Janelle S. Peifer, founder and Lead Psychologist of the Center for Inclusive Therapy + Wellness. It may be more challenging now, but there are ways to facilitate these connections. "Setting up virtual or in-person coffee dates, regularly chatting with friends and co-workers to ask about their day (the same way you would at the water cooler) or seeking affinity groups for women and other people of color," adds Peifer.
Practice visualization and meditation.
Zee Clarke, a mindfulness and breathwork expert for BIPOC communities and the author of Black People Breathe, shares that deep breaths and mindfulness practices can provide the clarity you need. "If you feel anxious, try guided visualization. Visualization has been a powerful tool for me when I experience anxiety," explains Clarke. "I found that when I got quiet and imagined all the ways the thing I was worried about could go well, I was able to calm my anxiety and the outcomes often aligned with my visualization." Mindfulness and meditation can help calm your mind and reduce stress and anxiety. If you're new to these practices, many apps and online resources can help you get started.
Jasmine Cobb, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in grief and trauma at Visual Healing Therapeutic Services, PLLC, shares that setting boundaries is the key to reducing stress and avoiding burnout. "Boundaries are limits intentionally put in place to protect your peace," says Cobb. While you may not have much control over the scheduling demands set by the workplace, you do have control over the amount of additional stimulation and engagement you are engaged in outside the workplace. "Set aside some time to disconnect and refill your cup in other ways outside of work hours so that you can reconnect when you feel recharged," adds Cobb.
Take regular breaks from screens, and get outside
Vanessa Williams, LCSW, recommends stepping away from your devices regularly throughout the day, even if it's only for a few minutes. It's essential to give your eyes and brain a break from the constant stimuli of screens. Williams suggests adding a mindful walk to your routine as a means of changing speed. Spending time outdoors has been shown to have numerous mental and physical health benefits. "Mindful walking is simply the practice of bringing your mind's awareness to your surroundings. Movement helps bring your mind's attention to your body and is a good source of stress relief," says Williams.
Ask for help when needed; this could involve talking to a therapist, counselor, or coach for support. Try not to feel discouraged if it takes time to rediscover your bliss. "If it can take a while for us to reach the point of burnout, it makes sense that burnout recovery would be a process, too," says Taylor Elyse Morrison, the author of Inner Workout and founder of the Inner Workout wellness practice. "You can't buy your way out of burnout. We can start to recover from burnout by being meaningfully connected to ourselves, our communities, and the world beyond us."
For additional resources check out: EBONY's Mental Health Resources Listings by state.