If you came into this period of partial lockdowns already feeling burned out, chances are that this period has you even more concerned about quarantine stress. Having to deal with a spouse or significant other who is also home from work, while juggling childcare, distance education not to mention your own work schedule is stressful and understandably so. All of this is an around-the-clock affair and it can be draining.
Experts estimate that being all the work involved in being a parent is the same as having a second job. Even as the world opens up again, there is still a sense that we will have to handle lockdowns in some format for at least the next year.
If you’re feeling burned out from the quarantine, please understand these two facts. First of all, it is not your fault. Everyone experiences stress albeit differently. The emotional trauma of dealing with a global pandemic and what that has meant is stressful and it is alright if you are feeling that way. Secondly, it is possible to change your situation. It is possible to change how you are feeling. And that is what we will be talking about in this post.
Before we dive into that, let’s talk about what burn-out is.
Burn-out – A definition
According to a definition by the World Health Organization, “burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
In order for a professional to identify burn-out as an underlying problem, you must be experiencing the following three characteristics:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficiency.
Thus if you are currently feeling disconnected from your job (and now from all the work you are doing at home too), experience physical exhaustion when you have to work, and have noticed your productivity has gone down, you might be experiencing burn-out.
Although work-related burn-out is not classified as a medical condition, it is serious enough to warrant definitions by the World Health Organization and years of research on how to help people deal with it.
It’s important to know yourself
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for overcoming burn-out, especially in this COVID-19 era. Knowing yourself – the things that motivate you, the things that make you happy, and the factors that cause you stress – is important.
Every individual has a personality type that deals with situations and circumstances differently. You may have heard of personality tests/frameworks like CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinders 2.0), Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.
All of these measure an individual’s personality based on questions you answer yourself. Answering those questions honestly will give you an idea of where your strengths lie. Once you know your strengths, you can hone in on those to help you cope and overcome burn-out.
Knowing who you are and what your innate strengths are will help you design solutions that work best for you.
Identify what stresses you out about your job and change that.
According to Audrey Addaquay-Corey, NP, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, once you recognize that you are experiencing burn-out, “identify the things that make you unhappy at work and work to change the ones that are changeable”.
Are there individuals, situations, or even objects that contribute to your quarantine stress? Find the ones that can be changed and work on those. While you may not be able to change everything about your workplace, there are things you can change.
For instance, you could speak with a manager about what you’re experiencing and ask if they could switch your assignments or an option for a reduced workload. While these conversations may not guarantee that you do get a reduced workload, it can lead to some accommodations.
You may also decide that to reduce burn-out, you will reduce the number of times you take work home.
It will also be important to identify stressors at home too. Once you identify these, you will be better equipped to deal with them or at least describe them when you speak with a mental health professional.
Take a break
In addition to this, Addaquay-Corey says, “take your lunch breaks. Take a vacation even if it is just to stay at home and watch movies. Do something daily that relaxes and refreshes you.”
Unplugging from your job, even if it is for a weekend, will rejuvenate you and get you ready for the week ahead.
Because most of us now work from home, this concept of being “done” with work can be hard. After all, we may be simply moving our computer from the dinner table only to set it up for a family dinner.
The solution for this? Set up working hours even if you work from home. Make these hours non-negotiable. If you are done at 5 pm on Fridays, close that laptop at 5 pm on Friday evening and don’t open it back up until Monday morning.
In the meantime, enjoy time with your family or do something that energizes you.
Speak with a mental health professional about quarantine stress
If you don’t deal with work-related burn-out, you could pay for it in other ways.
Quarantine stress/burn-out is related to conditions like heart disease, depression, and different types of anxiety disorders.
It doesn’t need to get to that point.
Speaking with a licensed mental health professional will give you the additional tools you need in order to cope and survive this season of burn-out.
Many mental health professionals have now taken their practices online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And with more health insurance policies covering telehealth services, you should be able to make an appointment with a mental health professional and speak to them from the comfort of your home.