‘How can you be burnt out when you’ve barely left the house all year?’
The way some people talk about the pandemic make it sound like it’s been one long period of R+R on the sofa. For front line workers, 2020 has been far from relaxing, with nurses, supermarket staff and delivery drivers working longer hours in unprecedented circumstances. But even people working from home, or those who have lost employment, report feelings of exhaustion and burnout.
Why are people suffering from burnout due to coronavirus?
You’re busier than ever
For one thing, not everyone’s lives have slowed down. If you’re a factory worker, supermarket clerk or work in healthcare, your work is likely to have amped up. Equally, people who are able to move their work home are reported to be working longer hours, and may have added care responsibilities if they’ve lost child support and have relations who are newly vulnerable. And those who have lost employment face increased stress and the seemingly thankless task of job applications and virtual interviews.
You’ve lost outlets for stress
While you might be busier at home, or in the workplace, the means you usually use to relieve stress may be inaccessible, or harder to access.
Meg, a Bloombox Club customer who works in the care sector, told Bloombox Club that while her local lido has started operating again, because slots are limited and the price has increased, she hasn’t been able to visit at all this year. The same is true for people who were regulars at yoga classes, dance venues and the theatre, who have lost vital sites of release and community.
We are also (necessarily) spending far more time behind screens, whether for paid work, to stay in touch with friends and family or to complete tasks that would otherwise be carried out in-person. Information is being presented to us at an alarming rate from across the globe, and much of it is frightening and distressing.
Humans are wonderfully adaptable, but we are ill-equipped to deal with the concerns of a global populace, or live a life mediated by devices. Keeping up with a news cycle that’s gone into hyperdrive, ever-changing restrictions and a fluctuating existential threat is exhausting!
So how can you fight coronavirus burnout?
With the odds stacked against you, what steps can you take to keep stress from overtaking your life?
Limit screen time
Technology is playing a vital role in keeping us connected and informed, as well as allowing business to maintain whilst distancing. But the dopamine triggering beeps and flashing lights, along with endless feeds of doom emanating from our smartphones are known to wreak havoc with our mental health.
Combat this by playing the role of strict parent and social-media-addict teen all at once: choose a period where you leave your phone and laptop in another room (or, if it’s an option, another floor).
Go for a walk before and after your working day (whether that’s paid or unpaid; corporate or domestic).
If you have no explicit need to leave the house, create one for yourself! Set a fixed time to walk around the block or local park, if you can.
Getting your body moving, switching up your surroundings and giving yourself some sense of routine have all been shown to reduce stress and boost overall wellbeing.
Make realistic plans for your day
With so much going on around us, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the tasks you need to complete, and end up not getting anything done (resulting in further stress!).
Most of us have now realised lockdown isn’t the time we’re going to write our novel, get a six pack and pick up a new language all at once. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain some control over your life.
Set yourself realistic goals for the day (be they related to work or your personal life) and tick them off as you achieve them. We’re hardwired to find fulfilment in completing tasks. Doing so will give you a sense of autonomy and help keep stress at bay.
Keep your space comfortable
Even if you don’t work from home, you’re probably still spending more time there than you normally would be. That means it’s especially important to keep your space (reasonably) tidy and suited to your needs.
This could mean investing in an office chair that supports your posture, or adding indoor plants to your living space to help counteract a tech and stress-addled brain with the calm stillness of nature.
According to evolutionary theorists, large top-heavy plants and trees make us feel safe and calm. And plants in general have been proven to alleviate the body’s stress-response in a range of clinical trials. You can find out more about the relationship between plants and mental health in Plant Therapy, a new book by psychologist and Bloombox Club founder, Dr. Katie Cooper.
Pick plants by room or wellbeing benefit here