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Pandemic Burnout Sucks—Here’s What You Can Do About It

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive, find it hard to concentrate or lack satisfaction from your achievements? Is there a mountain of work waiting for you at almost any given moment? Do the smallest, most menial tasks feel overbearing? If you do, you might be experiencing a burnout

The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as a “special type of work-related stress—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The WHO lists the following as the most common symptoms for this condition:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.

  • reduced professional efficacy.

In other words, burnout affects your capacity to be a productive worker (or student) while draining your energy and shattering your self-esteem in relation to your job. While this syndrome was already relatively common—according to a 2019 study by Gallup in which 67 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at some point—the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the odds of burnout. 

According to an extensive survey conducted by The Harvard Business Review, at least 85 percent of workers reported that their well-being had suffered some form of decline during the past year, while another 62 percent is struggling with balancing work with other responsibilities. Millennials seem to be among the most affected by the pandemic, per the study “Beyond Burned Out“.

woman sitting in front of Macbook
Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

That said, why is everyone so burned out? Well, other than the fact that the pandemic is still going strong in many countries—with India suffering one of the worst crises—even amidst aggressive coronavirus vaccinations, there have been innumerable sources of stress during the last year. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • Longer work shifts. 

  • Lack of social interaction.

  • Fewer breaks.

  • Heavier workloads.

  • Fear of contracting coronavirus. 

  • Job insecurity. 

  • Financial stability

  • Managing multiple responsibilities at once, such as working and taking care of children. 

To put it plainly, as if life wasn’t already stressful enough, the pandemic simply amplified already-existing sources of mental agony. 

What can we do about it?

To tackle this issue, the first thing that must be done is to talk about it. Be it with your family, your boss, significant others, or children, if your current lifestyle is seriously affecting your state of mind, you need to communicate it.

You’ll also have to establish boundaries with these very people to ensure you’re able to remain productive and meet your own needs, as well as your family’s, and your workplace’s. Although it can be scary, remember that we’re going through a global and unprecedented crisis. Your feelings are valid and shouldn’t be ignored under any circumstance. 

That said, Forbes recommends the following tips to mitigate the effects of pandemic-related stress and improve your mood throughout your work-at-home days:

  • Nourish your mind. Try to make each day a bit different from the previous one. The sense of boredom and monotony can drain a person’s enthusiasm, so make sure to keep your mind sharp by doing new things: be it by solving puzzles, reading or listening to a podcast about a topic you’re passionate about. 

  • Feed your energy. Prioritize your activities by energy and try to squeeze in habits that give you energy. Whenever possible, cut down on the ones that drain you. Focus less on time management, as people tend to perceive that they have more time than they actually possess. 

  • Cultivate connection. Fostering healthy connections is key to maintaining motivation and a healthy attitude toward life. Try to schedule safe activities to reconnect with others, as the COVID-19 restrictions become less strict, and make sure to save time for these events. 

  • Identify specific sources of stress. Try to pinpoint the exact sources that are causing you the most stress and work on setting boundaries against them. Keep lines of communication open

Although communication should be present in each of these steps, as you develop steps to clear your burnout, it’s also important that bosses foster a healthy work environment where communication is welcome. 

The Harvard Business School survey on pandemic-related burnout also revealed that 65 percent of employees do not feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace. Burnout symptoms can be addressed if there isn’t animosity toward identifying the underlying issues and developing solutions for them. 

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips to reduce pandemic burnout:

  • Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible—ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.

  • Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.

  • Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.

  • If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.

  • Practice mindfulness techniques.

  • Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.

Hopefully, we will learn to cope with the remainder of the pandemic as vaccination rates increase. At the same time, maybe employers will learn to treat their employees with more consideration after the pandemic. 

Luis is a 24-year-old writer, editor and journalist recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. He majored in Creative Writing and Communications and has bylines published under Her Campus, Pulso Estudiantil and El Nuevo Día. During his final year of college, Luis worked as Senior Editor for Her Campus at UPR, Editor in Chief of Digital News at Pulso Estudiantil and interned at El Nuevo Día. He seeks to portray the stories of societies, subcultures and identities that have remained in the dark. Check all of his stories out at Muckrack! https://muckrack.com/luis-alfaro-perez