COVID Fatigue and Burnout
By Katie Reed, RN
What is it?
After almost two years of living through this pandemic, people are understandably tired of the rules, restrictions, social separation, and lack of normal life. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to burnout, which is a level of exhaustion beyond being physically tired. Unfortunately, sleep alone cannot cure this level of exhaustion.
How do you know if you are suffering from COVID-related burnout? Let’s take a look at the symptoms.
Feeling hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, emotionally drained, stuck, empty, or unmotivated
Feeling exhausted even when you get enough sleep
Being less productive or unable to meet your daily demands (caring for self, home, kids, etc.)
Increased irritability or outbursts
Experiencing conflict in relationships or increased feelings of resentment
Lack of interest in people/things you used to care about and enjoy
Difficulty making decisions
Decreased compliance with precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing
What can you do about it?
The good news is there are ways to stop the cycle of COVID fatigue and start to replenish your natural energy.
Maintaining good mental health is one way to combat COVID fatigue. When your thoughts stray in an unhealthy direction, remind yourself that this is temporary and things will get better.
Focus on what you can control. There is so much out of our control, so focus on what you can do. Identify areas of your life you want to work on or improve, and set small, achievable goals (i.e. improve health, organize your home, finish a project, etc.).
Give yourself credit—you’re doing your best! Now is not the time to berate yourself; instead, recognize how far you’ve come.
Limit social media. Misinformation, negative news, and comparing our lives to others’ can lead to increased fear, anxiety, and depression.
Seek mental health support if you are struggling. Try seeking the help of a personal therapist, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or the NYS COVID Mental Health Support Line.
Though many relationships have suffered during this pandemic, social connection remains an important part of your well-being. Make the effort to stay connected with family and friends. When connecting in person, always be mindful of safety precautions. When unable to be together, connect virtually through talk, text, or video chat. Remember that you are not alone—we are all in this together!
The past two years have been an emotional roller coaster, but there are tools you can use to stay centered.
Remember your worth. Even in hard times when you may not feel it, remind yourself that you are valuable and make a difference in people’s lives.
Practice positive affirmations and gratitude. Try to focus on the positive and be mindful of what you have to be thankful for.
Find ways to manage stress. Make time to do the things that restore your energy, such as exercise, meditation, listening to music, dancing, journaling, or creative projects.
COVID fatigue can take its toll on your body. Make your physical health a priority, especially during times of stress and burnout.
Be physically active. Staying active promotes good physical health, including a strong immune system. Good physical health also has a direct effect on your mental health. Exercise increases energy levels and causes the brain to release chemicals that help improve mood.
Eat healthy. Increasing fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, limiting sugars, and reducing intake of alcohol and caffeine can help improve physical, mental, and emotional health.
Get the medical care you need. Don’t let physical issues linger!
As we take care of ourselves and each other, it’s important to continue to follow preventative measures: social distancing, masking in public, frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and avoiding contact with people who are sick. Together, we’ll make it through this difficult period, and we’ll be stronger on the other side.