Pandemic Burnout: What is it and what can you do about it

People wearing masks

Since almost the beginning of 2020, the term “New Normal” has become a common saying globally. It has been used in reference to lockdowns, social distancing, mask wearing, supply shortages, restricted services, working remotely, and distance learning among many other things. As numbers are rising across the country, many of us have been faced with losses, new stresses, anxieties, and burnout.

But what does it mean to be burnt out in the midst of a global pandemic? Burnout has most commonly been defined as a work-related stress that causes exhaustion physically, mentally, and emotionally. As we reach the 11th month of the pandemic however, burnout has become a much broader term that has started to apply to more than just work. 

Who is burnt out? It’s not just healthcare workers who are burnt out, almost everyone has reached a point where they are exhausted as a result of the pandemic for one reason or another. Teachers, students, and parents are exhausted from an ever-changing schedule of in-person and distance learning while people in the workforce are exhausted from working remotely, working in-person or facing new unemployment challenges. Healthcare workers are burnt out from the constant risk, long hours, and issues of understaffing. Many people take on multiple roles at any given time which raises the risks of burnout. 

What can you do to prevent burnout and lower your stress?

There are several things you can do to help lower stress and prevent burnout. Finding an appropriate work/life balance, reducing the amount of new you take in, and simple tasks that can help reduce stress all help in small ways. 

zoom meetings

Many people moved to working remotely in March and never returned to the office. As a result, the lines of work life and personal life became blurred. The important thing is to find a way to separate the two. Find a way to have a designated work space in your home that is made for work only. Establishing a new routine and setting up transition times is also a big help in creating necessary boundaries. This might mean finding a new routine to replace the physical commute you used to make. For some that could be taking a walk around the neighborhood, or adding in a short morning/afternoon exercise routine to help separate work and personal life. For more tips on separating the work-life balance, check out this article from the Jefferson Center

Next you can take a few little steps to make your life easier. Store masks and travel size hand sanitizer in places where they are easily accessible in case you forget them or run out. This might mean keeping extras in your car, purse, work bag, office, etc. Taking time to find a mask or sanitizer can only add to your stress levels and cause frustration, especially if you are already running late or feeling frustrated. 

Make your masks fun! No one enjoys wearing them, but you can find patterns or holiday themed masks to make them a little more fun to wear. Most stores and online shopping sites now carry a variety of masks so you can find some that match your personality, an event, or a holiday. Instead of having an Ugly Sweater party this year, have an Ugly Mask virtual voting contest to lighten the mood! This can also be fun for kids too, letting them help pick out colors or patterns is a good way to get them involved in a positive way that will make them excited to show off their new fun mask while keeping them safe. 

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to stay up-to-date on what is happening in the world. As time goes on and we learn more about the virus, we learn more about how we can protect ourselves and others. While keeping up with the news is a good thing, too much of it can also be a bad thing. Just like you need to have a work/life balance, it’s important to know when to turn off the news and do something that will relax you and lower your stress levels. Try finding new activities that you can do like having a family game night, relaxing with an adult coloring book, or reading a book. For great tips on how to keep staying home fun, check out!

Remember to give yourself a mental health check. During stressful time’s it’s important to take a few minutes to ground yourself and reset. To learn more about grounding, check out our 5 Simple & Neat Grounding Techniques!


Brought to you by the StayWell Health Center Team