Burnout – A Post COVID Phenomenon

By Pam Jenkinson – Night Light Café Project Worker

When the first COVID lockdown hit, I am not going to lie, there was a part of me that let out a sigh of relief. Being an introverted person, the idea of not having to socialise and having my small family unit consistently close to me, felt like bliss. However, what has become increasingly upsetting to me is hearing stories of others, who actually found lockdown exhausting. Many had additional work pressures put on them due to their job role, alongside having to juggling home schooling and limited house space to work.  Where I had rested, they had to push through with high demands put upon them and subsequently not stopped or had any recovery time since; they had experienced burnout. 

So what is Burnout? According to Mental Health UK – Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time. 

Common signs of burnout:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached/alone in the world
  • Having a cynical/negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Statistics show there has been a 24% increase in adults reporting burnout, than there was in 2020. Burnout can affect anyone, at any time in their lives, in fact a recent survey showed that the average professional can experience burnout before the age of 32!

But could it be argued that burnout is just another word for stress? In fact they are in fact two sides of a spectrum. According to the NHS, stress is the impact of there being ‘too much’. Too many demands, too many changes, too much to do and too many decisions to make. Whereas, burnout is feeling there is just ‘not enough’.  Not enough time, energy, enthusiasm, ability and not enough inner resources. It is commonly described as ‘being emotionally drained’, ‘feeling empty’ or ‘just not being able to be myself anymore’

Mental Health UK states that the problem is if you are feeling like this, that unless it is addressed it won’t just go away. It will continue to get worse, unless you acknowledge what has caused it in the first place. So how can we address this? Does it go away with time? 

Reading stories from people who have been through burnout, below are some tips they have given to either prevent it happening or how to recover from it include:- 

  • speaking to someone and acknowledging how you feel
  • Try to separate work and home. So try and avoid using your phone for work purposes when you are relaxing in the evening or at the weekend. Resist the temptation to check your work emails before you go to bed or as soon as you wake up.
  • Prioritising what is important each day and sticking to only those things. Create a physical list of priorities. Each morning, review or edit the list to remind yourself of the aspect that you need to fully focus on that day.
  • Make time for hobbies, so that you focus on something away from the workplace.
  • Try not to give yourself a hard time. If you are a conscientious employee and a high achiever, you may need to consider whether some of the pressure comes from putting unrealistic expectations on yourself.
  • Look after your physical self – get enough sleep, water, exercise

In conclusion, to me it seems that burnout is more common than we realise and can happen to anyone at any time. Taking a break at times doesn’t mean you are broken, it means that you recognise that you are not superhuman and cannot do everything all the time. If you experience burnout, get help and support from those around you, it is not something you should be ashamed of.

Night Light Café is open to all and if you are feeling pressure from burnout, our doors are always open for you to come and chat and offload. To access this service, or to refer someone for support from Night Light, please call 0300 011 1200 or email nightlight@actstrust.org.uk You can also find us on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nightlightcafelincoln 

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