The risk of burnout is real and needs to be considered as we go about our daily lives in the time of Covid -19.
For people working demanding jobs, burnout was always a challenge in the very best of times but now with Covid-19 it has become a reality for so many more.
Parents are combining remote working with home-schooling, caring for sick relatives in a time when everything is uncertain and ever changing. School leavers are missing milestones in their lives,young lovers are missing big celebrations, young parents are alone with new babies, and parents and grandparents are without so many loved ones – it’s a difficult time for almost everyone.
It’s become a strange and a difficult world and we’re all trying to change, adapt and cope. Where the difficulty lies, is that adjustment takes more energy from us then operating to an old routine, to old understandings and with all the supports that we took for granted. This can bring in a kind of ‘effort fatigue’ where we are all working off script and inventing and re-inventing daily. This fatigue has the potential to transform into a kind of collective burnout but it is not inevitable.
The world Health Organisation defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.But burnout happens well outside of the workplace too and as a result of a whole range of situations where a person feels stressed, out of control , incompetent and incapable of steering and managing their lives- this is the case for many, right now.
Burnout is not inevitable as the stresses of living with Covid-19 continue but it is important that people feel in control, competent, and confident in as many aspects of life as are possible, in order to counterbalance the inevitable uncertainties that this pandemic presents and the stresses of living with it- the new normal as it’s now thought of.
Here are some things you can do in your daily life to protect your mood and your overall wellbeing beyond the obvious of a healthy schedule that takes good account of sleep nutrition and physical activity levels.
Learn a new skill or increase fluency in an existing skill – there is significant amount of research telling us that activities that involve pleasure and mastery are protective against depression over time. So consider thinking ahead for the winter of something you’ve always wanted to do or learn- research,plan and commit to it. It might be that something you always postponed until later- NOW is the time.
Create some rock solid boundaries between home and work. Consider having two separate phones for work and personal -This way you can turn one off and separate yourself from notifications from work. Schedule times when you will not be in touch with others at work, so that you can focus undisturbed for periods and communicate which day this happens to your colleagues so that they know.
Disconnect mentally and emotionally from work. If your mind keeps wandering back to all the issues of work then then you will not be able to recharge mentally or physically in your downtime- this in particular can lead to burnout over time as sleep and distraction become ineffective as a relax and your body stays in the high cortisol state.
Review and reset objectives daily. It’s very easy to think you can do all that you did pre-Covid, you may even think that you can do more with all this added time you have, but in reality you have many more draws on your time and energy- they are different but they are there. Cut yourself slack, give yourself time out, days off and re-adjust that objective and be realistic and kind to yourself.
And when you are setting objectives set some for your own personal goals, for time with your family and friends, for your hobbies, for reading for binge watching. Remember distraction for the mind is like sleep for the body- a total rest.
Become self-aware .If you want to avoid burnout you must become more self-aware- checking in with yourself on whether you feel tired, fatigued, irritable or something else. It’s vital that you recognise these as important indicators of how you really are. You must listen and respond to them- choosing rest, distraction and joy over work often- Yes often! Every single day!
If you can manage your wellbeing and stresses in the short term with good self care habits like these – burnout will not be an issue for you.