Do you find yourself struggling to concentrate or unable to remember what you did yesterday?
Then you may be exhibiting signs of pandemic burnout.
As we approach the 12-month anniversary of the first lockdown restrictions coming into place, many people are feeling the strain.
While last March’s lockdown was tough, it did at least come during a bright, warm spring. Many threw themselves into new hobbies and endeavoured to do their bit for our under-pressure society by fund-raising, volunteering or banging pots and pans on the doorstep for our NHS.
This time round, in the depths of winter when many already struggle with the short days, social isolation and financial uncertainty, lockdown has been so much harder. According to a February poll by Ipsos Mori, half of Britons say they are finding staying fit and healthy harder compared with before the Coronavirus outbreak, up from 40% who said the same in July last year.
Even the bright light of the vaccine, our way out of the seemingly endless round of restrictions, can seem a long way off on the toughest of days.
The temptation may be to pull the duvet up higher and wait it out until your vaccine invitation drops. But that’s not a serious option for many. So how can we make these days more bearable?
When every day feels pretty much the same as the last, creating a routine and sticking to it may seem like the last thing you want to do. But knowing what you should be doing and when, can make it easier to cope with lockdown. It creates a sense of control and certainty.
Resist the urge to stay in your PJs all day; getting dressed energises us and helps us face a new day. If working from home, make sure it is in a specific space rather than allowing all your home to become something you associate with work. Plan for the day and stick to it. Don’t let work drift into your evening, aim for defined periods for working, physical activity, meals and downtime.
The last year has been hard on us all in one way or another. You wouldn’t be human if some aspect of life hasn’t slipped during the pandemic. Now isn’t the time to beat yourself up about your own perceived failings. Accept that it’s ok to lower the bar on expectations. Work out what it is really important to succeed at and concentrate on that.
Natural daylight helps ward off the ‘winter blues’, can improve sleep patterns and boosts mood.
The days are (slowly) getting longer so make the most of the increasing daylight hours by factoring in some outdoor exercise, even just a walk round the block. From March to the end of September, sunlight is absorbed by the skin to produce Vitamin D, important for growth, development and our general health.
Many are juggling multiple roles – parent, home teacher and employee. All that combined with a lengthy period of restrictions we’ve never encountered before and the health and economic worries they can bring to us and those we love. Therefore, it’s no surprise that stress levels may be high.
So, what helps? Staying connected with family and friends while unplugging for periods from social media and the news are both seen as important strategies in maintaining a sense of balance and perspective. Prioritising ‘me time’ is also high on the list. You may be at home much more than before the pandemic, but schedule in some time to do what you like to do; a relaxing bath, time to read alone or a favourite meal – make it yours.
Motivation may be low if the days feel repetitive and are blurring into one. Our pre-pandemic lives were busier and had much more structure and variety. We were more likely to have to travel to work, shop, see family and friends and enjoy leisure time. Now that’s limited, we need to find other ways to mix up our day. Surprise yourself. The best way out of a slump in energy is to reinvigorate through change or introduction of a new interest. If you’re someone that normally finds inspiration by having a deadline to work to then set yourself some and don’t allow time to drag.
When the days are so similar, it’s natural to become consumed with our own lives. There’s limited social interaction, the line between home and work life may have become smudged and restrictions seriously impacted finances. While it’s clearly important that issues that impact us long-term are given focus, there is nothing to be gained by endlessly re-running the current situation in your head. If those thoughts become all-consuming try to de-focus and put your energies into doing something to help someone else. Helping others makes us feel better about ourselves, creating a sense of purpose, belonging and perspective. It may be something as simple as a phone call to a family member or neighbour or paying attention to the people around you and what you can do to make their lives a little easier.
→ If you’re finding it difficult to focus at work, feel stressed or want to boost feelings of happiness and contentment, the solution may be through your stomach.
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