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COVID-19, pandemic fatigue and burnout: how can we help?

Friday, Nov. 13, 2020

There is no doubt that the pandemic has brought about significant changes in our lives. With all the adjustments that have been necessary both at work and at home, it’s expected that physical, mental and emotional fatigue might set in. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge your symptoms, to take action with self-care solutions, some of which are discussed below, and know when to seek help.

When fatigue becomes burnout

What is burnout?

The World Health Organization defines burnout as "feelings of intense fatigue, loss of control and accomplishing nothing at work". A burnout can, however, go beyond your professional activities and also impact your personal life.

Know the signs and symptoms

It’s important to learn how to recognize the physical, emotional and mental symptoms of burnout. Here are a few of them:

  • Fatigue, fluctuations in energy levels, appetite or weight changes
  • Change in mood, irritability, anxiety, lack of motivation, decreased self-esteem
  • Trouble remaining focused, remembering things and making decisions, and being easily distracted

It’s also essential to assess your thoughts and behaviours:

  • Do you tend to isolate yourself?
  • Do you tend to procrastinate and postpone your tasks? Do you let them pile up?
  • Do you tend to think negatively?
  • Do you feel like everything is as big as a mountain? Do you feel easily overwhelmed?
  • Do you feel you are losing control of your life?

Preventing burnout

a woman talking with friends via video conference

Maintain a balanced schedule

Make sure to have a clear separation between work and your personal life. Plan your schedule so that your daily, domestic and leisure activities are included outside of work hours. Make sure you eat 3 meals a day, sleep 7 to 9 hours a night, and do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. These are the magic numbers to remember!

Cultivate social relationships

It is possible to continue physical distancing while maintaining social relationships with those around you. Plan video meetings or calls with your loved ones! Go for a walk with them after work. Take an online yoga class with a friend. Watch a show, a movie or even a concert with them virtually. Join an online book club! Maintaining your social relationships will promote your sense of belonging and help you break the loneliness and social isolation in these uncertain times!

Promote well-being

Pleasant and meaningful activities are essential to promote a balanced life. They will help you feel more satisfied during the day and feel more involved in your personal and professional activities. If you have difficulty integrating fun activities into your schedule, it’s important to ask yourself about the barriers that prevent you from including them in your routine.

Do you have difficulty managing and planning your schedule? Do you have a poor work/life balance? Do you have difficulty setting limits at work and prioritizing your personal needs? An occupational therapist can help you explore solutions to overcome these barriers.

If you are having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide it is of utmost importance that you reach out for help immediately. Contact your primary healthcare provider and/or Canada’s Crisis Services hotline at 1-833-456-4566, counsellors are available 24 hours a day. 

If you would like more strategies and tools to prevent or address burnout, consult an occupational therapist. Our role is to support you in resuming, maintaining or integrating activities that are essential or enjoyable for you, all while taking care of your mental health! Please check our locations page to find a clinic near you or book one online if you're interested in an appointment.

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