Over the last few weeks I’ve been listening to the challenges people have experienced while we’ve been in lockdown. Some of you are attempting to home school your kids whilst feeling committed to doing your usual jobs from home. Some are trying to fill the void of having no jobs. Some, like me, are lamenting not being able to have a real break from reality because of all the travel restrictions. And some, frustratedly, are waiting longer than expected to have elective surgery. Unfortunately, the times we find ourselves in can very easily burn us out, either quickly or in time when this is over.
The reason we burn out is because we imagine ourselves in a demanding, threatening situation. In doing so, we set off our natural fight or flight survival instinct. The brain and body trigger a release of survival hormones and neurotransmitters to help us fight or run away from the threat. Granted, the COVID-19 situation is exactly that – demanding and threatening. However, our natural instinct to run or fight is futile in this instance because we can’t run or fight. Therefore, we are left with the adrenaline and cortisol in our bodies, building up and running us ragged in the meantime.
The key is to accept our situations, be with it, don’t fight it. What do I mean by that? Acceptance, therapeutically, is about knowing that our circumstances are not ideal, recognising we can’t change it, and so, instead of protesting about it, we go with it – we ADJUST.
I admit that 4 weeks ago after the initial Government phase 2 announcements I had a 10 mins moment. I had a moment that left me feeling powerless, challenged, and trapped. I lamented the fact that we were experiencing our version of a war. After those 10mins I collected myself and said “I can’t control what’s happening therefore I need to accept and adjust”. Knowing that we are all in this together gave me solace, it gave me faith that we would get through it. Of course, I knew we would get through it bruised and battered somehow but, nevertheless, I knew we would find a way out of the cavern.
I suspect that by now many of you have adjusted. It takes about 2-4 weeks to adjust to something new depending on the situation. For others, acceptance and adjustment might be ongoing as the days, the weeks, and months unfold and bring more and different change.
In the meantime, beat burnout with the following strategies:
- Connect regularly with friends and loved ones online or phone
- Listen to what your body is saying and practice self compassion
- Schedule relaxation times
- Practice Sleep Hygiene strategies
- Take regular breaks
- Say NO
- Ask for help
- Assert yourself
- Have a backyard camping vacation
- Reward yourself with a good book, time out, a hot epsom salt bath
- Have a romantic dinner with partner after kids gone to bed
- A girls’ or guys’ night in – online of course
- Eat nutritionally and take vitamins if deficient
- Exercise Exercise Exercise – plenty of stuff on youtube and we are allowed to get outdoors
- Separate work and home life if you can eg physically with a separate work space or emotionally by adding something dressy for work and something casual when work ends
- Ultimately ACCEPT and ADAPT