It’s been nearly a year since the first lockdown and if you’re suddenly feeling worn out, and unable to cope with the lack of control, uncertainty and challenges that COVID-19 continues to bring one year on – you're not alone. This overwhelming sense of ennui is a telltale sign of pandemic burnout. While the positive news about the vaccine rollout gives us all a little more hope, it doesn’t change the fact that people are still struggling. And yes, we’re in a much better place than we were six months ago however this doesn’t necessarily help with the burnout and fatigue people are feeling as they become impatient waiting for “normality to return”.
This lockdown has been particularly tough, and it feels as if everyone has hit a wall at least once. We’re all dealing with a global pandemic, however, we’re not all dealing with the same things. You may have lost a loved one or a job, or missed out on a family occasion like a wedding or a graduation. Maybe you simply miss travel, after-work drinks or just the adventure of pre-COVID life. These are all very normal feelings, and no one should be beating themselves up about struggling with burnout right now.
What is pandemic burnout?
Burnout is not a new phrase. The World Health Organization defines burnout as "feelings of intense fatigue, loss of control and accomplishing nothing at work." Moreover, pandemic burnout shares similar feelings, however, is associated more with the widespread exhaustion felt after months of spending time and energy dealing with a global pandemic and the lifestyle it brings.
Signs that you have pandemic burnout
- Being exhausted even after plenty of sleep
- Being emotionally distanced from your friends and family
- Change in mood such as irritability, anxiety and lack of self-esteem
- You’re procrastinating more than ever
Ways to overcome pandemic burnout
Acknowledge that things have changed
The first step to coping with pandemic burnout is to stop comparing your current self to your pre-pandemic self. Whilst you may have been the productive, creative, A-type personality once upon time -times have changed. Now you may struggle to get dressed some mornings and that is completely normal, and nobody is going to judge you for it.
Adjust your expectations as necessary
Ironically, one of the effects of burnout – a lack of productivity - can also feed burnout. When lockdown first began, you may have had a long list of everything you would accomplish with all your “spare time”. However, back then you probably didn’t expect to still be here twelve months on. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t be afraid to take things off your to-do list. Replace them with smaller, more achievable goals.
Look after your body
There is no replacement for the endorphins produced during physical activity. 30 minutes of exercise a day helps the body to destress and will keep your mind off the pandemic and ultimately help with burnout.
You also need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. There are literally no benefits to sleep deprivation, and it will affect your mood and immune health if you’re not getting enough shut-eye. If you are struggling with sleep, London Doctors Clinic offers a Sleep Wellness Subscription meaning you get medical expert advice and the latest sleep monitoring technology to help you sleep better and in time reduce the effects of pandemic burnout.
Your muscles and joints may also be feeling the effects of pandemic burnout, especially if you have been working from home since the start of the first lockdown. It’s been nearly a year of makeshift offices and closed gyms so it’s no surprise that you may be feeling some more aches and pains than normal. And, with no real clarity on when employees will return to the office, it’s understandable if you’re feeling fed-up with the monotony of home working. Moreover, if you’re suffering from back pain, a strained muscle, or stiff joints, London Doctors Clinic offers a private physiotherapy service where we can help you find the source of the problem and help provide a diagnosis.
Take care of your mind
It's so easy to get so wrapped up with everything that going on in the world that you forget to look after your own mental health. If you are feeling uneasy, try some simple meditation or breathing exercises or schedule some time in the week for yourself and your wellbeing. This can be as easy as taking a walk or having a bath. If you are feeling particularly anxious about the lockdown and the pandemic in general, see a GP. At London Doctors Clinic, our doctors can discuss suitable support and treatment and refer you to a mental health specialist if required.
Stay connected to loved ones
Being separated from friends and family is tough and can add to your pandemic burnout. However, if you can’t be together physically that doesn’t mean you have to be so far apart. There are so many ways you can still feel socially connected with loved ones like weekly video calls or virtual activities like quizzes or painting.
Avoid constant news reports and social media
If you are struggling with pandemic burnout, take yourself off social media. This will help you avoid constant news reports and reduce the anxiety that builds from media exposure. One suggestion would be to not scroll social media right before bed and instead listen to a non-related podcast or non-stressful book.
Make plans for after the pandemic
While we don’t know exactly when the pandemic will end, it’s important to make plans to look forward to. Even if they aren’t set in stone, creating a list of things you want to do post-COVID will remind you that this won’t last forever.
Get help when you need it
If you feel as if you could benefit from professional help, you probably could. And, acknowledging this is a very big step in the right direction. Speak to a GP as this will help you identify the symptoms of pandemic burnout and help with tailored coping strategies. At London Doctors Clinic, our GPs can also refer you to our mental health partner for more specialist mental health support. And, if you’re feeling particularly anxious about leaving your house, we also offer video GP appointments. This means you can discuss your mental health with a medical expert from your own home.
While all the above may help you improve your wellbeing incrementally, unfortunately, there is no easy cure for burnout. So, in the meantime, try to slow down and reflect on the choices you can control such as going for a daily walk or getting 8 hours of sleep each day. The last year has been anything but ideal, however, believe me when I say you’re stronger for it. Just keep moving forward.