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Pandemic Burnout?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions and guidelines we are living with have changed our experience of our environment. We have had to adapt to new ways of living, with travel off the agenda for most, gatherings including weddings and funerals often limited with guests, and the wearing of masks and use of hand sanitiser becoming the norm. These regulations have helped us to reduce the spread of Covid-19…. But what does this mean for our mental health?


The definition of “burnout” refers to the aftermath of a mental or physical health crisis. In the past, it has generally been associated with the workplace. Symptoms of burnout include:

·       Feeling exhausted, irritable, and/or feeling overwhelmed.

·       Feeling alienated or cynical – as it relates to work

·       Feeling an inability to meet the demands of life and work, leading to reduced productivity – as it relates to work.

More recently, we can see burnout relating to the pandemic, not only because it has led to an increased toll on our resources relating to the workplace, but also because it has led to an increased toll on our resources relating to our home life.

Mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Consider the toll first on our healthcare professionals, particularly the front-line workers who may have needed to work with limited resources and for longer shifts, with no apparent end in sight to the virus. Burnout does not discriminate, however. Last year, following the first round of Covid-19, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported that anxiety and depressive disorders were three to four times higher than in 2019. These disorders placed a strain on relationships, families, work, and across other domains. Medicare responded by allowing a further ten rebated sessions of psychological therapy per year and allowing Telehealth to accommodate lockdowns and/or people who could not travel. This was certainly a help for those that need it; however, this then meant that psychologists wait-lists blew out as people made full use of the extra sessions. Whilst many people navigated 2020 quite well and adjusted to new ways of living such as lockdowns, movement restrictions, and Covid-19 testing and vaccinations, the ongoing pandemic (now onto the Delta strain) has led to many people not coping as well and experiencing burnout.

Working from home presented challenges for many people. Many miss out on the day-to-day social contact and feel isolated. Many forget to take regular breaks as they might have done at work and work harder at the expense of our private lives. As gyms closed, many people found it difficult to commit to regular exercise; combined with comfort eating, the “Covid Curve” became more than a buzz word for some! The restrictions on travel and even day-trips out or social get-togethers mean that we also don’t “fill up our cup” as we might normally do. Coping mechanisms changed – this was evidenced by things such as increased technology and more alcohol abuse (useful for companies like Netflix and Dan Murphy’s).

Enough of the negative stuff – what can we do?

So what do we do?

It is so important to set out own personal boundaries – boundaries help us to feel safe and provide our guideline for our needs. For example:

·       Making clear boundaries between home and work if you are working from home. Work for working hours only as you would as the office.

·       Making clear boundaries for what you do for others – you can say no!

·       Ensure you take good personal care whatever that means for you.

·       Do exercise – even a short walk is great for anxiety!

·       Do eat well – if your body is supported in a healthy way, we cope better.

·       Maintain your social connections as best you can; by Zoom, Skype, or by phone if you can’t face another screen.

·       Be mindful of physical touch – are you a hugger or not? If you are a hugger you might be missing out.

·       Check in on your sleep – poor sleep increases anxiety. Try falling asleep listening to some relaxing music or doing deep breathing exercises.

·       Try mindfulness. Bring yourself to the present moment rather than worrying about the future. Turn off the news!

·       Do things that make you happy (as you can). If you enjoy painting, do that; if you enjoy playing with your children, do that.

·       Seek help from a therapist if you have tried some of the above and it is not helping.

We all hope that some sort of “normality” will return in time. Perhaps as vaccinations rates increase or as the pandemic runs its course, we will be able to visit our loved ones, travel, return to workplaces, and enjoy smiles that we can see. In the meantime, take care of yourselves!

Adapted from source:

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Sharon Connell

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