Blue Monday? This year let’s call it Burnout Monday.
While the winter blues are a real cause of suffering for as many as 15% of the population, the expression itself is rooted in marketing (think travel companies trying to lure us away to sunny beaches).
This year, we should talk about burnout instead. It is unmistakably on the rise, and has been since the pandemic started.
So many of us are feeling and showing the effects of prolonged chronic stress right now. Disrupted sleep. Waking up tired. Cynicism. Lack of enthusiasm. Lack of energy and ability to cope. Loss of confidence in our abilities. Feeling empty and irritable. Increased physical pain. To name a few.
Left unattended, burnout can be a precursor to depression.
It was challenging enough juggling all of our daily roles - parent, employee, spouse, before the pandemic. Now we also have to contend with a layer of grief and isolation, compounded by other stressors that vary depending on our individual circumstances.
And, the pandemic, the very thing exacerbating burnout, also makes it more difficult to treat right now.
So what can we do?
For starters, control what we can, and set boundaries:
- Time: Protect your time, set some aside just for you (if you live in a small house with lots of people, noise canceling headphones are great!). Let go of any guilt.
- Space: Carve out a physical space that’s yours where you can retreat and be by yourself if need be. Small works.
- Emotional: Stop comparing yourself to others, or even your previous self. Let go of expectations of yourself, and of others if need be. Let go of any guilt you may feel about “not measuring up”.
Forget multitasking and mono-task. Take it one task, one activity at a time. Forget the “to-do” list and create a “don’t-do” list if you need to.
Focus on what’s possible right now. Let the rest go. Remember that what is possible one day, may not be the next day. Our levels of energy change daily. Our needs change daily. Release the guilt.
Get outdoors. Take in some fresh air, and sunlight if it’s available. A 30-minute walk can do wonders. Do some gentle stretching at home.
Nourish your body. Nourish your mind. Nourish your spirit.
Connect online with others if it feels good. Give yourself solitude if that’s what you need to recharge your batteries. No guilt.
When overwhelmed, return to your breath. Leave the rest aside, and focus on one 4-count inhalation at a time, holding it for a few seconds, and one 8-count exhalation at a time. Repeat as often as needed.
Practice self-compassion. Repeat.
Be patient with, and kind to yourself, and know that this will pass.