I’ve just booked my booster jab for later this week, and as more waves of people locally here and at my children’s school are falling ill with Covid, I’ve definitely found myself reflecting on the past couple of years since the pandemic began and realising the propound impact it has had, and continues to have upon my life.
The pandemic has been a torrid time for so many of us in so many different ways.
When Covid-19 began its rapid spread around the world, many people understandably panicked, but we were hopeful. How long could this possibly last? Until more than a year had gone by, and things got worse at times; new strains, differing measures, differences of opinions among the public and changing information. Even with the administration of vaccines, there is a new normal. This is why it comes as no surprise that numerous people are facing pandemic burnout.
What Is Pandemic Burnout?
The World Health Organization states that burnout is “feelings of intense fatigue, loss of control and accomplishing nothing at work”. Burnout can be experienced at any stage in life during which you experience great stress. Pandemic burnout is similar to regular burnout, except that pandemic burnout is the culmination of months of stress and uncertainty.
Another name that people have given Pandemic Burnout is Pandemic fatigue. It is an apt name for the feeling that many people are experiencing, that of fatigue. When the pandemic began, people were scared, but there was hope, the belief that this would be over soon. However, as the months passed, this belief eroded and declined. There is a limited amount of hope one can show in the face of sick relatives, lost jobs, and a changing way of life in the face of changing information.
Today, despite the roll-out of vaccines, the end still seems a way off for many and perhaps it is even unrealistic to actually expect an end that many hope for. Countries open their borders only to shut them down again; restrictions are lifted only to be altered and enforced once again. Herd immunity is still currently out of reach. All of this culminates into burnout that has been building for months. It is taking a mental toll on many.
According to psychiatrist Jessica Gold, MD, MS, even those with great coping skills find these skills can “stop working”. This also means that those who struggled with their mental health before the pandemic may well suffer more greatly from pandemic burnout. Coupled with the winter months, which are notorious for seasonal depression, people have their work cut out for them when it comes to dealing with pandemic burnout.
What Are the Signs of Pandemic Burnout?
There are a few signs of pandemic burnout that you can notice in yourself or others. Knowing these signs allows you to look for help earlier and to combat the situation before it becomes worse. You may experience one or more of these signs, in which case it would be wise to look for assistance from a doctor, therapist, or family member.
Do you feel reluctant to follow the rules and guidelines recommended in response to the pandemic? Does it feel like a chore to put on your mask or follow social distancing rules? If your answer is yes, then you may be experiencing pandemic fatigue. People with pandemic fatigue find it harder to comply with Covid-19 regulations. Not because they wish anyone harm, they are simply exhausted with it all.
A sign that you can easily notice is feeling tired despite adequate sleep. People dealing with pandemic fatigue will find that despite sleeping the recommended hours, they still feel sluggish and tired. Even increasing the amount of sleep does not help with combating the fatigue they feel.
Some people find themselves facing extreme anxiety, especially around those who are not wearing a mask or adhering to social distancing rulings. This limits their interactions with those in a social setting as they are constantly anxious. It also makes it difficult for them to go outdoors, which increases the amount of time spent in isolation, exacerbating other signs of pandemic fatigue.
You may find that your emotional capacity has diminished. You may find yourself snapping, crying, or becoming irritated with things that previously would not have affected you as much. Your ability to be emotionally present and calm is affected, and you may find yourself being short with your loved ones or others around you.
Pandemic burnout can manifest in the form of reduced motivation and feeling lost without a purpose. You may find that things that you usually did with enthusiasm are now draining and tiring. It can feel like you have no real meaning in your life, that there is no purpose or reason to do the things you do daily. You feel lost and demotivated.
Another way that pandemic burnout can appear is through the feeling of isolation. Despite knowing that other people are dealing with similar situations (lockdowns, quarantines), you may feel completely alone. Even if you live with family or friends, you feel alone and lost. Completely isolated from the world, from your friends and family, from everything around you.
Depression is another key sign that you may be suffering from pandemic burnout. Of course, this sign may be difficult to identify as a standalone sign, especially for those with depression before the beginning of the pandemic. For those people, they may find that their depression has gotten worse than before. People experiencing depression for the first time may find that they have other signs of pandemic burnout as well.
The signs given are some of the most common signs of pandemic burnout. You may find that you are dealing with one or more of these signs. You may also feel like certain signs exacerbate or trigger other signs. For example, you may find that your fear of encountering people outside without masks increases your feelings of isolation and loneliness.
When you begin to experience any one of these signs, you should reach out for help. It may be a difficult process initially, but you will benefit from the support of your friends, family, therapist, or doctor to help you combat your feelings. There are techniques and strategies that you can consult to help you combat your pandemic fatigue. These work best when you have the support of others around you.
Ways to Combat Pandemic Burnout/ Pandemic Fatigue
A lot of research has been done into pandemic burnout, and the feeling people are experiencing during Covid-19. For example, a 2021 Harvard Business Review study showed that more than 80% of people have felt that their health and well-being have worsened. The study shows that people are finding it difficult to maintain their work and home responsibilities and keep in touch with others.
Due to this research into people’s experience with the pandemic and the associated burnout, steps and strategies have been created to help people cope with their burnout. These are general guidelines that you can carry out on an individual level to help you combat your pandemic fatigue.
These measures are not limited to people who are suffering from pandemic burnout. They can be practised by people as pre-emptive measures to decrease the chances of pandemic burnout from occurring. These suggestions are coping techniques that anyone can use to help them combat the effects of pandemic burnout.
Break the Monotony
One of the main reasons that we feel drained during the pandemic is the repetitive nature of our life. It is the same routine, wake up, breakfast, work or school, more work, lunch, dinner, and then bed. This gets boring fast. The mind needs stimulus from time to time, a change or something new to focus on.
You may not be able to leave your home, and you can’t always change your work or school timings, but you can make some changes in your day. If you have the same breakfast, try something different. Research the places that you may want to visit, learn about the culture, the history, anything that excites you.
If you are an avid book lover, take some time to read a new book. Consider skipping the re-run of your favourite show and trying something new. Do crosswords, brainteasers, or puzzles. Things to keep your mind feeling fresh and active. Your mind, like all other muscles in your body, needs to be kept active to keep it healthy.
Routines Are Important
You may be confused. On the one hand, you are being told to break the monotony and, on the other hand, to keep a routine. Breaking repetitive patterns does not mean that you should abandon all your routines; it means making minor changes that keep your brain sharp and active. With that said to help you feel as normal as one can in these conditions having a routine is vital.
Avoid sitting in bed in your pyjamas when working from home or taking online classes. Change into something new, sit at your work desk, try, and maintain your routine. Ensure you are eating healthy meals and that your sleep cycle is similar to your cycle before the pandemic. These small things make a big difference in keeping our mental health in check.
Treat the work week the same way you would if you had to wake up and go to school or work. It keeps your mind engaged in every day rather than the pandemic. Keeping to your routine gives you a sense of purpose, something to do every day.
Control Media Usage
A common mistake that many people made when Covid-19 first hit was overconsumption of the news. People were checking the news daily to hourly; after some time, this can become too much for you to handle. It becomes information overload. Additionally, the death tolls do not have a positive impact on your mind, and they can exacerbate your anxiety.
Of course, that does not mean that you need to stop reading or watching the news. It means you may have to limit your information intake. It can help to update yourself on the news at one time in the day. Pick anytime and then stick to this time daily. This helps manage your anxiety.
It is also important to get your news updates from credible sources. Social media makes the spread of false information very easy, and this spread of misinformation can be disastrous for your mental health. For all Covid-19 related updates, stick to official government websites or reputable news channels.
You should also try minimising the amount of time you spend discussing the pandemic with friends, colleagues, and family. It can be easy to fall into a negative mindset when discussing the pandemic. It is best to limit such discussions for your mental health and to avoid overthinking.
Keep Connected with Your Loved Ones
With travel restrictions and various levels of lockdowns, it can be difficult to stay in contact with your loved ones. Especially for those who live in different countries, it is not easy to stay in touch with time differences. Keeping these relationships can be vital when making new relationships can be emotionally draining.
Try and make time to call your loved ones. There are numerous platforms through which you can make video calls, zoom, skype, google, and face time. They allow you to see your loved ones which helps in feeling more connected. Make time to call as often as you may need.
You don’t have to stay limited to simple calls. You can plan virtual game nights, book clubs, karaoke, and you can even join in on important events like weddings or birthdays; the sky is the limit. This builds your connection with your friends and family and allows you to have some fun, despite the distance.
As the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine”, the reason for this is due to the release of endorphins when we laugh. These endorphins help to decrease your stress and make you feel relaxed. If you feel down, it can help to turn on a funny video and relax for a little while. Read this article for more on this topic: The Science of Laughter.
Ask For Help
There is no shame in asking for help. Suppose you feel that you need help despite taking measures to combat pandemic burnout. You may need to see a professional to help with your mental health. Many therapists and psychologists have turned to take their appointments online. You may not even have to leave the comfort of your home to attend your sessions.
The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in some way. Many of us are dealing with pandemic burnout, but there are ways in which its effects can be mitigated. By following some of the tips given about you can reduce the effects of pandemic burnout and maintain your mental health.
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