The untold truths of dealing with COVID burnout

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Put the coffee down and go take a proper nap! Anh Nguyen via Unsplash

We might be tired, but there are still ways for us to combat burnout

Burnout today is a phenomenon that hits too close to home for many. It is a mixture of mental exhaustion and feeling physically drained. It is common to feel as if you do not want to do anything when dealing with burnout. For many, it happens as a period of productivity followed by a time when your brain and body are so extremely exhausted that nothing can get done.

I think of burnout as your body telling you to take some time off. It’s extremely hard to deal with in a culture that promotes over-productivity. At some points, I have found myself feeling guilty for not doing my tasks early, leaving them till last minute.

I think COVID-19 has led to an increase in burnout. Our systems are collectively collapsing, and not enough is being done to alleviate the stress that comes after. Workers are putting in more hours than ever before with a staff shortage. Our hospitals have more patients being admitted every day. Health care workers are extremely burned out from long and difficult shifts. The system is unable to keep up with all the changes that the pandemic has brought forth. It is overflowing. Hell, it might even be sinking. We are living in the most difficult time in history. Thus, self-compassion is the most important thing that is needed to deal with burnout.

It is important to identify what your burnout symptoms are. Everyone is different. Some experience a prolonged period of poor performance, while others are exhausted and extremely self-critical. It is also common to witness a reduction in creativity and productivity. Thus, it is important to try to identify the source of your burnout so that you can tackle it accordingly.

For the past two and a half years, it seems that I cannot remember anything that has happened in my life. Every single day has been the same. Online classes have made everything even more difficult. I am not alone in craving true, face-to-face connection with people. I’ve been staring at my laptop since the first lockdown, and I truly believe that it might have done something to me mentally. In 2020, I experienced burnout like no other. This was the first time I and many people were trying to adapt to the pandemic. It would be an understatement to say that we were adapting poorly. It took me a very long time to feel like myself again, to try to find ways to deal with my burnout.

In some ways, I don’t think I will ever feel like myself again, and that is okay. It is normal for events like these to change us. The first thing one must remember is that they are not alone in their burnout. Once that is established, it is important to give yourself the space and the time to ride the tides. This might be unnatural advice, but I truly believe that sometimes you just must let yourself go through whatever it is you are going through at the time. At least that is how I deal with my burnout. It is important to try to take things slow. Take baby steps and take things day by day. Forcing yourself to do things you do not have the energy to do is extremely difficult during burnout, so it is better to take a step away and return to things when you feel mentally ready to do them.

Prior to COVID-19, a common treatment for burnout was a change in scenery. This is practically impossible now because of the rising cases. The best thing you can do is create a space in your home or your room filled with all the things you love. Any time you need to step away from something, you can always rely on that space to clear your thoughts or take a much-needed break. It is important to note that taking care of yourself should be a priority. Sometimes we forget to prioritize ourselves because we are focusing on so many things at the same time. Eating
nutritious meals and taking your vitamins, supplements, and any needed medication are crucial steps.

Sometimes what you think is burnout might be a serious issue that needs more attention.
Another way to minimize the chances of burnout is ensuring that you have a proper sleeping
schedule. It is important to make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. Lack of enough sleep
can lead to catastrophic things. Sleeping allows your mind, brain, and body to rest.
Burnout is a signal that something is wrong, and changes need to be made to get through it.

Sometimes it could mean that we are not giving ourselves the time to rest, or we are not setting clear boundaries. Boundaries are there to protect you and your needs. We are not robots. We all have our limits. Taking some time off for yourself is normal. It does not mean that you are lazy. The reality is that you are choosing yourself. Ultimately, the longest and most important relationship that you will have is the one that you have with yourself. It is important to nurture that relationship and take good care of it. Listen to yourself. Pay attention to what you need and what helps you.

I think the most important piece of advice is therapy. However, that is not accessible for many, and as I am an advocate for using the internet for your own good, I’d recommend some of the many resources out there. Some of these are apps such as Shine, I Am, Calm, Headspace, and many more. Meditation can be beneficial because it is peaceful.

The key take away is that everyone at some point has dealt with burnout or is dealing with it now. It is important to remember that you are never alone in your struggles. I hope that you can have peace of mind knowing that burnout is a human experience that many now know all too well.

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