This article is part of our ‘Covid-19 & the Job Market’ resource pack. View more here.
Living amidst a pandemic means not taking the usual comforts foregranted. It also means having to deal with a constant bombardment of negative news stories, calls to pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill, improve your language skills, not to fall back and keep up and to get stuff done anyway. Of course, these are mostly well-intended but they inevitably create stress and pressure which could lead to burnout.
But firstly, what is burnout?
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” according to Helpguide.org. Burnout exposes “that you have been living your life through the lens of the inner critic and not your real self.” – Frank Conway from Moneywhizz.
Burnout happens when many of us feel the need to keep busy and do more and more, as “we have no excuses now” that we’re stuck at home. So how can we avoid burnout?
How do you get yourself back out of what seems a bottomless pit?
The plus side to burnout is that it shows us the sides of our life which we have been neglecting. We neglect our sleep to get in an extra hour of work, we might stop exercising, and we neglect ourselves and the much-needed self-care.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight.
You may find yourselves feeling overwhelmed by the simplest deadline or receiving an electricity bill. Look out for these signs.
However, in the present situation, although we might usually think of burnout as the cause of working after hours, or working in overdrive, or a lack of a work/life balance, burnout may be the cause of something else: the burnout of choice. Experts call it ‘decision fatigue‘. We are faced with decisions we’re not used to having to make – like “is it safe to order take out?” or “Can I survive without milk another day and avoid going to the grocery shop?” Then we are faced with “life-or-death” decisions – like avoiding visiting parents because it might cost them their lives. This is not the psychological stress we are used to, or something we’ve ever had to experience in the modern world.
There is also the stress of ‘free time’.
We may be pressured to think that since we’re home we can work on our hobbies at leisure. However, whilst this may be a source of relaxation for some, it may be a cause of stress for others. This “fear of missing out” may lead to people feeling anxious of not spending their time “the way they should”. If bingeing on Netflix works for you, then so be it. If for others it mean exercising 3 hours a day or getting into pottery – then so be it. There is no right or wrong. Whatever activity you choose to do, shouldn’t feel exhausting. It is unrealistic to expect miracles in a time when the lifestyle we’re used to is threatened. Your priority at this moment in time is to stay sane.
This is not forever.
Although it may seem like self-isolating is your new way of life, it’s not forever. All this is is a period in our lives which will come to pass like everything else. We have to get rid of any unrealistic expectations and after all this is over we will come out stronger and wiser as we have now gained the ability to manage and cope with such a situation. The best we could do is practice social distancing and make sure it lasts the least it possibly could and in the meantime, do what we can to free our minds from fatigue.
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