Because of the pandemic, I’ve been working from home. I’m a healthy 38-year-old, enjoy work, and have many Internet telemeetings. I feel more exhausted, even isolated, at the end of the day than during average days at the office. Should I be worried?
So many changes have occurred during the pandemic—the ways we work, worship, socialize, and play. These influence our total well-being. We are multidimensional beings—physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and relational. Lockdowns and social distancing have increased isolation and loneliness. Social distancing, along with handwashing, wearing masks, and living a healthy lifestyle are all essential to staying well at times like this. However, the social distancing has sadly become literal, even in our relationships, and loneliness has escalated. We can stay socially connected through the same technology that facilitates telemeetings for our work. Remaining socially connected helps us stay wholistically healthy, and also those with whom we connect!
Teleworking has been key to the response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Social distancing has made it necessary to meet using technology that enables us to see and hear each other. Our days are filled with Zoom, Skype, StreamYard, Teams, and other helpful tools. We move from one online conference or conversation to the next. Although we can mute our microphones and even cut the video feed, we don’t take breaks as frequently as is healthy for either our bodies or our minds.
Our tiredness and exhaustion at the end of the workday are increased by the following factors:
Days are filled with more meetings as commute times are often eliminated with teleworking.
Breaks are less manageable because meetings are not necessarily centrally scheduled, and we often move directly from one to the next.
We focus for longer periods on our device screens, not only as we do our normal writing, e-mails, planning, and scheduling, but for the duration of our meetings and conversations.
Extended screen time may increase the occurrence of dry eyes. This may be more of a problem in older age groups, but not exclusively. Drinking lots of water helps prevent this.
Via the Internet, we miss the “ancillary” yet rich components of face-to-face communication—such as body language and communication with our eyes (just a look or glance)—which increases stress.
We are “distanced,” and the bio- chemistry of communication may be less pleasurable with decreased dopamine production and less of the hormone oxytocin generated, which is believed to facilitate synchrony/communication.
We each need to make the intentional decision to exercise and move the equivalent of 250 steps each hour. We may take quick walks around our home or yard in between meetings, roughly on the hour. We need to hydrate well to stay healthy (this also ensures additional walks to the restroom—extra steps, sometimes with speed!). We need balance in our life and work, and we must heed the counsel that whatever we do, we should do it all to the glory of God (see 1 Cor. 10:31)—and at the same time, stay healthy!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.