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How to Avoid Burnout amid a Pandemic

by Bryan Lufkin (edited by Lea Bishop)

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. One feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

But in a crisis like the current Covid pandemic, burnout can result from what is known as 'decision fatigue'. Information is coming at us constantly, and it is constantly changing. Add to this the fact that the decisions we need to make based on this information have increased significantly. And the decisions are new and unexpected. For instance, many of us have usually done our own shopping. Now ordering online has become a modus operandi of life. We have a range of decisions to make that swing from critical ones such as how to keep our families safe to how to help our children complete their schoolwork. These are decisions we may never have had to make before.

Add to this the fact that our homes have become not only our family spaces but also our school rooms and our office spaces. And we want to continue to do well at work and help our families. Life has become so much more complex, yet we still expect to be able to handle things well.

Before Covid, we had places and activities that helped to alleviate stress. Think of the gym, meeting friends for coffee, or taking a fun class. Now we have to find new coping mechanisms, new ways of dealing with this new crisis. But we have to avoid the trap of overextending ourselves, of performing above and beyond. Now may not be the time to learn a new hobby or to strive for perfection or a promotion at work.

Janna Koretz, a Boston-based psychologist, suggests that we keep the big picture in mind. "This is all a season. This will pass. It may be difficult...there's a lot of scary thngs between point A and point B, but point B exists. And every day that we're in quarantine, we're closer to that time. " Coming out of the pandemic may shift our perspectives and will 'make everybody's ability to mange, cope and be flexible much better. So when we go back to our day-to-day, things are going to be easier because we've done something that's very challenging. And remember that by staying home and listening to the advice of medical experts, that may be the best thing we can do now. As Dr. Koretz says "By doing nothing, you're doing something."

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