If you’ve ever felt exhausted, overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of life, chances are you’ve reached a point of burnout. While burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, it’s still a condition that shouldn’t be ignored. Affecting our physical, mental and emotional state, burnout is often experienced when we’re subjected to excessive prolonged stress.

Now with millions of people on lockdown worldwide, individuals are being exhausted in a whole new way as burnout morphs during this pandemic. Whether it’s working remotely while balancing pressing family needs, the pressures of social media to make sure your quarantine doesn’t go to “waste,” or juggling an onslaught of dilemmas we haven’t faced before, many of us are feeling a new kind of pressure just to keep up. Fortunately, there are ways to understand why we feel this novel type of burnout while knowing how to keep it at bay too.

How Burnout Manifests during COVID-19
Traditionally when we think about burnout, it’s usually seen as the result of repeatedly grinding through work days beyond the hours of 9 to 5. However when burnout occurs during a crisis like COVID-19, experts believe it emerges from something called ‘decision fatigue’.

With news and information constantly changing, the pandemic is forcing individuals to rapidly grapple with difficult decisions in a troubling new context. Prior to COVID-19, we wouldn’t have to think twice about the ethical implications of ordering delivery, going out for groceries, or running into an elderly neighbour. Simply put, we’re being subjected to a psychological stress most of us haven’t had to experience in modern times. 

As people are still trying to figure out how to exist in the new world, it may feel like a herculean effort just to structure your day or prioritize tasks. This is the result of decision fatigue as we now have to deal with a range of decisions from seemingly life-or-death scenarios to harmless dilemmas like what to have for dinner. Combined with the added pressure of making smart, safe choices for ourselves, our families and our communities, this can all induce a pandemic-specific burnout.

Why Relaxing May Be Easier Said than Done
It goes without saying that experiencing some emotional exhaustion and anxiety is to be expected right now. However compared to our pre-pandemic times, our burnout may be further exacerbated by not having access to our usual coping mechanisms, such as going to the gym or taking a creative class. Meanwhile trying to pick up a new hobby or outlet for stress relief may do more harm than good. As social media posts urge people to use this time to give into their passion projects or learn a new skill, this can be a source of stress for some if there’s already underlying feelings that they’re not being productive enough. 

Despite having more time on your hands, experts caution to not let guilt be a deciding factor in how you manage burnout. Rather than trying to forcefully pick up something new, it’s recommended that people rely on things or activities that actually work for them. Whether it’s going on a walk, meditating or a Netflix binge session, there’s no right or wrong. By relying on hobbies you already have or at least ones you know will actually make you happy, you’ll be able to more effectively manage any feelings of anxiety or stress.

Keep the End in Sight
From financial fears to job security, concerns about family, or disappointment over missed milestones and cancelled trips, this pandemic has initiated a variety of new concerns for individuals. Even though it may seem like we’re only at the tip of the iceberg, experts stress the importance of keeping the big picture in mind which is that this will all eventually pass. While there may be a lot of difficult and scary moments between point A and point B, the fact remains that point B exists. As long as you’re patient and allow yourself to take things day by day, just try to remember that with each day that passes you’ll be closer to putting all of this behind you.