Updated: Mar 29
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None of us could have predicted the global pandemic that we have been immersed in. Despite having unique experiences, each of us has felt the effects both physically and mentally.
Early Warning signs of Post-Pandemic Stress Burnout:
· Feeling perpetually exhausted
An overwhelming sense of exhaustion is an early sign of burnout, it is a complex syndrome which effects everyone is a different way but there are 3 general warning signs to look out for:
- Exhaustion – emotional, physical, or mental
- Emotional detachment or feelings of numbness
- Feelings of inadequacy
· Withdrawing from ‘normal’ situations
If you notice yourself, a friend or colleague becoming isolated, shying away from things that normally come easily like meeting up for a coffee, going for a walk, making that phone call to catch up, then those could be signs that you or they, are heading for burn out. Other signs are avoiding intimacy, struggling to cope easily with normal situations, all of which lead you to withdraw emotionally from the world.
· Struggling to find motivation and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
When you are running on empty, it is hard to enjoy the things you used to – friends, family, work, social engagements - and you can become disillusioned with the world. Everything can feel like a burden. These feelings can then turn to frustration, anger, sadness and are further signs that you might be heading for burnout.
The onset of burnout is generally gradual which makes it even more important that you recognise the warning signs in yourself or someone close to you and try to take action before it’s too late.
Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder (PPSD):
There is a growing recognition amongst some psychotherapists of a condition called Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder which is a result the multiple stresses we have been exposed to since the beginning of the pandemic.
The reasons could include:
- Loss of a loved one
- Loss work
- Threat of redundancy
- Working on the front line
- Experiencing home schooling
- Loss of support
- Uncertainty about your future
- Getting covid
- Worries about yourself or a loved one getting covid
The list could go on!
The trauma to our psyche is extensive and within the confines of the isolation we all experienced, for long periods of time, we often had no way to express this, nowhere to find any support to express our thoughts and feelings so we kept it all inside. The result was keeping our bodies and minds in a permanent state of stress.
This then helps us understand why for some, when we then experienced freedom after lockdown, there were high levels of uncertainty, fear and anxiety.
Loss of confidence is now common, not knowing how to act around other people after being in lock down for so long! Other symptoms of this anxiety and fear are lack of sleep, nightmares, hyper-vigilance and just being unable to cope with day-to-day life.
These symptoms are very similar to burnout although PPSD is more closely related to high level anxiety. If you feel you are really struggling, fearing going out and having severe symptoms of burnout, it is always encouraged to seek help from your GP to ensure you can get the support you need.
If you find your anxiety seems to be on the up or you’re having feelings of stress that you can’t manage as we come out of the pandemic, here are a few suggestions that may help:
Have a plan to help rebuild your life:
It can feel like a never-ending battle coming out of a traumatic situation, like looking down a corridor that goes on and on without an end in sight. If you make a step-by-step plan to help you focus on one thing at a time to bring you back to a little normality, it will help focus your mind on the things that you CAN achieve. Each time you complete something from that list, the sense of accomplishment will make you feel amazing! Focus on the tiny steps. The small achievements will fuel your motivation for further action.
Distract yourself from overthinking:
The state of ‘high-alert’ is one many of us have experienced since the start of the pandemic, causing intense levels of anxiety and stress which are not good for our bodies or our minds. We must therefore help our brains remember what real danger is – am I about to be attacked? – and what is our mind making up, most likely down to high anxiety – such as thinking the worst might happen in every scenario, something our brains are attuned to after the pandemic.
Changing the focus of our brains is one easy way to distract ourselves from overwhelming, anxious thoughts. If we are not in perilous dangerous – there is no bear chasing us down the street – but instead you are struggling to leave your house today due to crippling fear, then take a moment and distract your brain, pick up a crossword puzzle, call a friend, play a game until the feeling passes. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
We cannot prepare for everything that may go wrong in every scenario, so don’t try to overload your brain with too much information all in one go.
Stress can show itself in a physical way as well as a mental way: tension, shallow breathing, increased heartbeat etc. We can do things to help with the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety too:
- Breathing and relaxation exercises – yoga or meditation is great for this
- Exercise is so important for all forms of stress and anxiety, forming this as a regular routine would have long term health benefits
- Take time for a hot bath
For more information about stress, read my blog ‘Managing Life Changes with Minimal Stress’.
Lastly, find that balance! Everything in life comes down to balance – work, rest, exercise and play. Prioritise the things that make you feel better, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, sleep well and find the things that make you feel good about yourself!
Need some added motivation and accountability to focus on healthy lifestyle choices? Contact me for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION phone consultation to see how I can help.