5 Ways to Cope with Pandemic Burnout

5 Ways to Cope with Pandemic Burnout

Pandemic Burnout

Recently, Edmonton-based counsellor, Shaheen, had the chance to talk to Sound Sugar Radio, a local radio station, about pandemic burnout and how to cope with it. So what is pandemic burnout and how can you reduce the symptoms of it? Read on to learn more and check out the interview with Sound Sugar Radio here (scroll to the 31-minute mark to tune into the pandemic burnout/covid fatigue conversation).

It’s been over a year since the first shelter in place orders were given. A year of social distancing, Zoom holidays, and missed vacations. A year where much of our life abruptly changed. With Covid-19 infections rising, an increase in variant spread, and ongoing restrictions many people are experiencing pandemic burnout. 

Pandemic burnout is being in a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion due to excessive and prolonged stress. In this state, our brains and body shut down and we feel like we can’t do anything at all. In a way, our brain is just trying to give us some rest by checking out. But with some tools, we can help ourselves start to re-engage in our life again.

Here are some symptoms you might be experiencing:

    • exhaustion
    • tiredness
    • feeling overwhelmed
    • feeling unmotivated
    • becoming more easily frustrated
    • isolating or disconnecting from others
    • feeling indifferent or apathetic
    • feeling sad or depressed
    • feeling helpless
    • feeling angry

Pandemic burnout is very real and it is taking a toll on our ability to cope with the stressors that we face. Here are five ways you can help yourself reduce symptoms associated with pandemic burnout. 

5 Ways to Cope with Pandemic Burnout

1. Categorize things that are in your control, not in your control, and that you have some influence on

This is a simple but effective tool that you can try on your own. Try listing out things in your life that are in your control, not in your control and that you have influence over. Make sure to include things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Take a moment to notice which category your stressors tend to fall in. In counselling sessions, clients often talk about things that are causing them anxiety and distress. When we do this exercise together, clients often find that the thing they are most stressed out about is not actually in their control. When we stress over something which is out of our control, we actually magnify our stress. This is because our brains try to find a way to control something which is not possible to control. 

When we identify a stressor as not in our control, we can begin to implement tactics that allow us to stop ruminating and shift our energy instead to something in our control. One way we can do this is by using a CBT strategy of envisioning a stop sign when a thought about the out of control stressor comes up. When we identify something that we have influence over, it is important to know what part do you have control over and when does it shift to not in your control? For example, you might have influence over a loved one's actions but ultimately, if they reject your influence they need to be moved to the not in control column. 

2. Understand your triggers

Another really important tool is understanding that our current situation might have personal triggers within it. So for example, if you grew up in a very authoritative household that made you feel suffocated as a young person, the restrictions might be a very triggering experience. This is something really important to understand for yourself.

Ultimately, triggers magnify emotions around a situation because it not only represents the current reality but also the past or future. This in turn gives our brain extra amounts of stress and overwhelm, again leading to potential covid fatigue. So here, you just want to start being really observational and curious about your responses. Ask, hmm, I wonder why I feel this way? What else might be playing into the way I feel?

Truly understanding yourself in this way is a freeing experience that allows us to gain control by separating the trigger from reality. That doesn’t mean it makes our reality any better. What has been happening to us all with covid is stressful, that is a fact. However, it does mean that we aren’t making it harder for ourselves. I really encourage everyone to reach out to a trained counsellor for this as well. Counsellors are trained to help you gain insights that can help you to heal. We can try it on our own but sometimes it takes a trained person to help us find those insights. If you’re interested in working with one of our counsellors, you can learn more about them HERE.

3. Self-care

Self-care is the gold standard for combating burnout. Pandemic burnout is no exception. If we think about it, burnout is basically us getting so overwhelmed due to stress that we can’t function anymore. Self-care is taking actions that remove stress from our lives.

It makes sense, then, that this is something we can do to help ourselves. Going back to our previous exercise of in control, not in control, and influence, self-care is  something that is in our control and when we focus on that column, again we are telling our brains, “Don’t worry I got this.”

However, the pandemic does throw a wrench in this. Maybe going to the gym or date night at a restaurant was your self-care. Now, these things aren’t available due to restrictions. We might have to be creative about the way we do self-care. One way our counsellors like to look at self-care is through the lens of the five love languages. The five love languages say that we give love in the way that we like to receive it and that we in a relationship need to be aware of our partner’s love languages so we can give them love in the way that they prefer to receive it. The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts. So if we apply this to ourselves in the context of self-care:

  • Words of Affirmation would be using daily affirmations or self-compassion.
  • Quality Time would be carving out time in your day to do something you love doing, like going for a walk, calling a friend, reading a book, or watching some Netflix.
  • Acts of Service would be doing things for yourself that make you feel happy, peaceful and fulfilled. For some people this might be organizing a space in their house for others it might be taking some extra time to get dressed or do their nails, still, for others, it might be fixing up their car.
  • Physical Touch could look like stretching, giving yourself a hug, or taking a relaxing bath.
  • Receiving Gifts would be buying something for yourself as a gift. Maybe that’s ordering your favourite dinner so you don’t have to cook one night or buying yourself some new loungewear.

One important part that most people miss in terms of self-care is to really acknowledge and thank yourself for doing things for yourself. This act of self-gratitude is important in burnout because again, it’s a safety signal to your brain. Gratitude in self-care is also going to help reinforce that it was a good thing to do, making it more likely for us to do it again. So, just saying, “I’m really happy I did that for myself today!” can make a big difference. 

4.Protect your Connections

Another thing that can help with reducing burnout is connection. This is especially important during the pandemic because it’s the thing that has been the most removed from our lives. A year into the pandemic, you might feel like you don’t want to schedule another Zoom call. But the truth is, connections, even virtual ones help to fill us up.

As humans, we are social creatures. We need to look at healthy relationships the same way we look at food, water, shelter. They are very much a basic need for us. So even if it feels tiring to schedule, it does help to continue to find ways to safely socialize with one another. Studies have shown that social connections foster resilience as well which is an integral part of coping with stress due to covid. Listen to Edmonton-based counsellor, Shaheen, talking about how to foster resilience through social connections HERE.

5. Acceptance

The last point on our list but perhaps one of the most important is to accept the fact that, collectively, we are going through something hard, something that really no one we know went through before this. It's scary, a lot of it isn’t in our control, and so to some degree, we are going to be overwhelmed and stressed. And although of course, it is not what we wish for ourselves, it is our reality.

So we need to be giving ourselves grace. We are not going to be living the same lives during the pandemic that we did pre-pandemic. What are some things we can let go of? How can we practice self-compassion? How can we ease up on our expectations? Our brains are going to have this extra thing they have to deal with. That takes up energy. So we can’t expect ourselves to be running at full speed. In a way, this acceptance is part of that self-care. It’s ok to not be ok right now. Reach out and talk to someone, because we are all feeling overwhelmed. The more we accept it, the more we talk about it, the easier it is to cope with.


Reach Out to Improve Your Coping!

The pandemic has been a difficult time for a variety of reasons. Many of us are feeling tired and exhausted. There are strategies that you can try to help yourself but if you're finding yourself struggling, reach out and book a counselling session today. You don’t have to go it alone. Holistic Healing Counselling is here to journey alongside you in your quest for healing.

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