Last week the country observed the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 and the Lockdown and many reflected on the lessons learnt, the strides made.
How glaring the differences are in our attitude and emotions in regard to the pandemic and the lockdown a year later. This time last year, many were filled with terror, panic, uncertainty, dread, etc. about the pandemic and its effects. While some were excited about the 21-day lockdown viewing it as a break, some saw it as an opportunity to change the norm through working from home, amongst others. Little did we know that 21 days would stretch to a year and beyond.
While the initial terror and panic over the virus may have waned to a certain extent, the uncertainty, the changes to our lives and work routines still remain. The COVID-19 pandemic not only unleashed fear and anxiety around contracting the virus itself, but it’s also added more pressure on daily life.
Where working from home initially seemed exciting, it soon lost its lustre as one’s work and personal life merged into one, official/working hours have become a myth. Juggling working from home, childcare, job uncertainties and increased financial burdens, has put severe strain on people.
The increased move to digital or virtual platforms for both our work as well as for social platforms has brought its own set of pros and cons. Although it has provided agility in the way that we do our work, it has also brought on exhaustion, fatigue and strain as we remain connected all of the time – from socialising, shopping, obtaining health care and even in regard to spiritual activities for some.
This brought on not only physical exhaustion, but also emotional exhaustion, severe fatigue, anxiety, social isolation and depersonalisation (feeling separated from your work, significant others and your colleagues)
We cannot ignore the fact that living under sustained COVID-19 pandemic conditions, coupled with the demands from everyday life, can lead to chronic stress and eventually, burnout.
Add to these the uncertainty regarding the economic circumstances, the continued impact of the pandemic and the waves in which it comes in and worst of all, the tragic loss of life under difficult, unfamiliar circumstances that even rob us of the normal ability to bid farewell to those who have died or comfort those who have lost loved ones.
The reported spikes in stress and anxiety levels and continued emotional strain, make burnout a question of “when” rather than “if”. Since it is evident that we will live with COVID for some time, what then can we do?
According to Professor Renata Schoeman of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion, severe fatigue and a detachment from your work, thus she advises that self-care is of paramount importance during times like these, as it helps build resilience. Self-care can be divided into physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual care.
Another important factor in combating lockdown/pandemic fatigue is finding and maintaining a healthy balance between productivity and rest. Realising that as much as we may have little or no control over it, a constant state of busyness without enough rest could negatively affect our mental health and productivity levels. So even though you can work longer hours while working from home, that doesn’t mean that you should, especially when you don’t need to do so. With the realisation that we are able to produce better quality output when well rested, we need to put in place measures to ease as much of the pressure as possible, while maintaining productivity and quality output.
Where possible, find a way to switch off at the end of the workday, e.g. by turning off your e-mails in order to avoid the temptation to work after hours.
With fatigue and burnout being a reality and a frequent occurrence, it is important for each of us to take care of ourselves and find ways to ease the pressure. Remember, you have one life, take care of it, take care of yourself, no-one is going to do it for you.
This article contains information from an article by: Jehran Naidoo- “A year into Covid-19 in SA: Lockdown burnout is real so how do we keep functioning?”