Facing September with Pandemic Burnout
Posted on September 02 2021
Somehow it is September, and as I write this, the Labour Day Weekend (aka the unofficial beginning of the end of summer) is almost upon us. Next week, many of us return to stricter routines, whether that means school for you or children, returning to an office, or even just more “regular” meetings and the end of summer hours, and that summertime vibe.
And while this happens every year at this time, this year is very different. So was last year, of course, in a completely unprecedented way. But a year and a half into this COVID-19 mess, this September feels especially surreal to me.
It’s been such a roller coaster – hope and optimism as cases and deaths declines and we regain access to enjoyable activities and gatherings, then fear and uncertainty around Delta, and with winter looming, what the rest of the year, and the future look like. When will it end?
We’ve got new terms now too; first there was pandemic fatigue, then pandemic exhaustion, and now pandemic burnout. And all are pretty similar and refer to the various levels of utter exhaustion caused by the energy outlay needed to deal with the realities of the past 18 months: lockdowns, limitations on activities and socializing, masking, sorting out vaccinations, watching the numbers, dealing with working and schooling from home….everything, and it’s a LOT.
We all know intuitively that our bodies are not designed to deal with this level of ongoing, unrelenting stress, and even if you have been fortunate to have not lost a loved one, or been seriously ill yourself, this has been so very much to survive.
Symptoms of pandemic burnout include:
- 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
- Isolating yourself
- Increased tendency to procrastinate and postpone tasks
- Thinking negative thoughts
- Feeling easily overwhelmed
Pretty much check, check, check, check, check, right? (Full disclosure: it has taken me weeks to get down to even starting this little blog, and I usually really enjoy writing! And putting laundry away now has a 3-5 business day timeline)
So, with September always feeling like the “second new year”: and a time to reset with good habits, I’m sharing my list of “niyamas” or good habits that I’m either returning to, or reprioritizing. And it’s a much shorter list than usual, because frankly, I’m worn out by the past year and a half, and I want to be realistic and only set intentions I will actually be able to keep to.
If you know anything about me, you will know this is always at the very top of my self-care list. You can revisit some older blogs on my sleep journey and routines, and on the chronic stress and insomnia connection and there are so many resources online about good sleep hygiene. Find what works for you and get the sleep you need. Nothing else works without the foundation of good sleep.
Enjoyable Movement Daily
Studio and gyms are open in most places, and many provinces require proof of vaccination so you know the risk is much lower. If you feel comfortable, check out a new class or return to an old favourite. Move your body in a way that brings you joy, and makes you happy to be in your body. We just got a puppy (yes, it is a cliché to get a dog during COVID but damn is he cute). I can’t wait to take him on long walks once he has all his shots and is safe. Or maybe it is moving at home to an online class. Whatever you like, do it. Commit to it and show up for yourself. I totally get that motivation is low, but you will feel so glad you did.
Adaptogens are plant medicines (usually roots) that help the body adapt to stress. They help reduce cortisol, and they support the adrenal glands, which have really been getting a tough workout this past year and a half especially. There are many amazing adaptogens out there, and everyone may respond differently to them. My favourites, ashwagandha, rhodiola, and bacopa are complexed with a stress-fighting, calming amino called l-theanine in our Daytime Zen formula. One capsule first thing in the morning really does help me feel more like me. Less overwhelm, better focus and less fatigue. And taking it in the morning to reduce cortisol during the day, will also help you sleep better at night.
Adjusting My Expectations of Myself
I am fortunate to know so many super smart and productive people and trust me, everyone is feeling this weird sort of malaise. Feeling not even close to your best self. Slower, less focused, easily distracted and overwhelmed. Irritable and emotional. Be patient with yourself. You are different now, than you were 18 months ago, so what you can accomplish in a day is different too. You are probably cutting everyone else in your life some slack right now, so include yourself in that compassion. Breathe deeply and be kind to you.
Sending you love and peace and sunshine as you navigate the next few weeks.
References and Reading
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