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BY Hope Nunnelley

How to Avoid Burnout during a Pandemic

What is burnout? The term was originally coined in the mid-1970s by Herbert Freudenberger and is defined as “becoming exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources.” As we cruise through the summer months, we are still dealing with the effects of COVID on our daily lives. People are working longer hours, wearing multiple hats (parent, care-taker, cook, personal trainer, etc.), all the while trying to navigate a rather turbulent environment. Many of us have continued to isolate to some degree and the physical and emotional effects of this “new normal” are taking a toll. So how can we avoid burnout?

The Mayo Clinic suggests doing a self-assessment to spot the symptoms of burnout early on. Ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?

It’s important to recognize these symptoms and take steps to combat them. Healthcare systems are already overwhelmed with the virus; we have to encourage ourselves and others to be proactive about mental health.

Tips to Avoid Burnout
  1. Seek out support. Communication is always key, but even more so now. Put your feelings into words and vocalize them to a trusted family member, friend or co-worker. Community support can help you cope with burnout. Also look into any resources (support groups, telemedicine, etc.) to which you might have access.
  2. Exercise regularly. Find a way to move your body that works best for you and your routine. The more endorphins you can create the better.
  3. Keep daily structure. Routine creates a sense of security, especially in a time where everything feels a bit up in the air. I know a mother who will still build in time for her “commute” as an opportunity to unwind after a long day of work at home.
  4. Practice self-care. Beyond exercising, this might be carving out time for meditation, prayer, quiet time, or doing something you love. Make time to relax and be proactive about protecting this time in your routine.
  5. Limit media consumption. The news will always prioritize the splashy headlines and, unfortunately, they tend to be negative. Limit your scroll and how much primetime television you’re consuming. Lean into your personal headlines like, “Co-workers complete project ahead of schedule!” and/or “Neighbor delivers groceries to an elderly neighbor.”

As Roger Cameron once said, “Energy, passion, positive attitude, creativity, mental toughness — these are characteristics of great leaders. They are also the first things to fly out the window when a person experiences burnout. The harder your work schedule and pressures at work, the more you need to manage burnout.” Prioritizing emotional health will help your productivity in the long run. And remember, we’re all in this together.